What Poets Do

Via Drew Myron:

It’s pretty well-known that writers are their own worst critics. I’m no exception. I might have just a touch of type-A personality traits. I might be just a smidge overambitious. I might have a slight tendency to set overly ambitious goals. And I might possibly be too hard on myself when I don’t meet them. Plus all that self-criticism that writers already have about their own work. (Certain members of my inner circle often hear me complain that not only did I not accomplish enough, but that what I did accomplish wasn’t done well enough. Certain members of my inner circle are very patient when listening to such complaints again and again.)

So I was excited to see Drew’s link to Molly Spencer’s blog,  where she has an entry about this sort of negative thinking, and a list celebrating what poets actually do accomplish. I’m sharing the list, because I’m sure at least one reader here will find value in it.

So here is what poets actually do:

1. Read and study a wide variety of good writing, especially contemporary poetry
2. Keep up with the news of the po-world
3. Draft poems
4. Do research, legwork, word-work, and notebook work to nourish the drafting process
5. Revise poems
6. Connect with other poets and readers and writers and artists
7. Swap poems for critiques, and critique others’ poems
8. Read Poets&Writers
9. Attend readings
10. Give readings
11. Spread the poems
12. Read a wide variety of literary journals
13. Research places to submit work
14. Submit work
15. Attend arts events to support the local art scene and for cross-pollination purposes
16. Read essays to learn more about specific craft elements; generally, study elements of craft
17. Attend classes, workshops, retreats, etc.
18. Get enough sleep, healthy food, exercise, and recreation (good self-care)
19. Apply for mentorships and grants
20. Errands in support of writing (office supplies, post office, etc.)
21. Get editorial experience, if possible
22. Set goals and track progress toward goals

(Drew riffed on this list as well, designing it so it’s applicable to all writers, not just poets. I enjoyed both of them.)

Yes, we are an accomplished bunch.

On any given weekday, I work an 8-hour day, draft a poem (revision is for weekends), and go to dance/kung fu/both. Add to that the fact that I’m putting serious effort into a novel, write for two blogs, I attend a bimonthly poetry critique group, I run a bimonthly fiction critique group, I frequently take on editing projects to help friends with their manuscripts, I submit poetry every single week without fail, and the fact that things like laundry and bills won’t take care of themselves, and I sometimes am amazed at the fact that I sleep at all.

So yes, I should be more appreciative about what I manage to accomplish, and focus less on what I don’t. I’ve been making a conscious effort to improve on that this year, but it’s a slow-going change. I think I’ll print this list and put it in my writing space, just as a reminder.


3 thoughts on “What Poets Do

  1. Every bit of your writing I agree. It cannot be taken lightly. It needs discipline and devotion.
    Thanks for the guideline.

  2. I think we are the same writer, at least mentally. 🙂
    Honestly though – this is a great list, and I am pleased to see that I do most of these things on a fairly regular basis. Thanks for making me feel better about my own work, and about my own progress!

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