Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic and The Productive Writer. In fact, this post is part of Sage’s virtual book tour promoting The Productive Writer. Anyone who asks a question and/or takes part in discussion in the Comments of this post today will be entered into a raffle for a free and signed copy of The Productive Writer.
The easier it is to dive into your poetry process, the more likely you are to do it. That’s why a simple system that puts your ideas, goals, submissions and poems at your fingertips is critical to staying engaged with poeming.
Over the years, I have kept both paper
and computer files that help me put everything I need to write or publish a
poem at my fingertips. Here are some of the categories I’ve used and approaches
I’ve taken. Feel free to use whatever suits you and make it your own.
for the year
much time do you intend to make for your poetry every week? How many poems
would you like to finish every month? How often will you send out work? How
many publications are you striving for? Do you intend to join a critique group,
take a workshop, attend a conference, or pitch a book? Whatever it is that
you’re setting your sights on in the coming year, write it down. Take a risk or
two. Dream big. Then let it go and get back to writing.
quotes that inspire you––about writing, and any other themes that are
attractive to you or meaningful to your work. Often a quote will spark a poem.
Or I’ll realize after writing a poem that a certain snippet of wisdom would
make the perfect epigraph.
I save my favorite poems by my favorite
poets and refer to them often. These offer inspiration fuel whenever I need a
refresher in what’s possible in poetry. They’re also really useful in triggering
new work; when I’m stuck, I’ll imitate some craft choice I admire, and often
I’ll find a new way forward.
When it comes to inspiration, I say
there’s no offense like a great defense. Squirrels use their feasts to prepare
for the famine, and so can you. When our minds are alert to the acorns of
inspiration––and we have a good system for saving those acorns––we can build up
a surplus. This secret stash of great ideas can keep the pilot light of
inspiration going, and get us through even the harshest winters of creative
Whether you’re using index cards, Post-It
notes or the backs of envelopes to capture those fleeting images or words, it’s
really helpful to designate one, easy-to-access place where you can compile and
easily reference your ideas, inspirations and poem snippets. Mine pile up in an “in box” and then all get input into an endlessly evolving “acorns” document in
in the works
All draft poems that are still taking
shape live here. Most of my poems spend some time ripening in this folder. When
I sit down with my “editor” hat on, I generally have a selection of
in-the-works poems to choose from.
Keep your finished work that’s ready to
go public here. This will help you easily make decisions about what to send out
and how to group poems when you’re ready to send in submissions to literary
Filing submissions requirements and
deadlines for contests and literary journals in one place, organized by
submission date, will help ensure that you don’t miss opportunities to submit
your work for publication. It will also put the information you need to
successfully meet publications’ guidelines at your fingertips.
Use a hand-written list, Word table or
Excel spreadsheet to track when and where you submitted your work, and whether
it was accepted. Make note of any personal correspondence your receive from
editors so you can follow up effectively with the next submission.
Keep a list of your poems published and
the publications in which they appear, as well as the publication dates. This
will help prevent mistakes such as sending out a poem that’s already been
published. And it helps you keep your bio up to date with all of your latest
What systems are you using that serve
your life poetic well?
Sage Cohen is the author of The
Productive Writer (just released from Writer’s Digest Books); Writing the Life Poetic and the poetry
collection Like the Heart, the World.
She blogs about all that is possible in the writing life at pathofpossibility.com, where you can:
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Power Tools” workbook companion to The Productive
Writer. Get the FREE, 10-week
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