So, I completed my November experiment: drafting or revising one poem per day. How did it turn out? Well, I ended up with 21 new poems, and 9 revisions, more new poems than I expected, some drafted with my accompanying grumblings and mutterings.
I wrote some more poems about prayer (as part of a manuscript, Your 21st-Century Prayer Life), poems about the weather (standard fare for me), poems about writing, and poems about writing poems. A love poem or two as well.
Full disclosure: I’m glad to be done with this project, not because I don’t enjoy writing poems anymore (because I certainly do), but because I enjoy writing short stories even more. I’ve been ruminating on two story ideas throughout this month, and I’ve put off beginning them until December.
When January arrives, I’ll be back in poetry drafting and revising mode, seeing as I’m teaching a poetry-writing course in the spring, and I tend to write most in the genre I teach at that time. August, September, and October were short fiction and fiction, hence several blog posts, a creative nonfiction piece, and first drafts of several short stories.
Writing all of these poems, especially toward the end of the month, taught me more about being thankful for the gift of writing and the secondary gift of being published. Two weeks ago I received an acceptance for a short story that I’m really proud of (proud of enough to end a sentence, minus the parenthetical aside, with a preposition). In the span of three years, the story was declined by a couple dozen journals, with a handful of those rejections including notes about how the story “almost made the cut” or how the editors liked my “literary style.”
I persisted, and then arrived the acceptance from Whitefish Review, a wonderful journal out of Montana. The editors went so far as to tell me that it was one of four stories that they selected from a batch of over 200. That news was almost more exciting than the acceptance itself.
Octavia Butler said that “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” She’s right. Write a line (or a sentence), and then write another line (or a sentence), and then keep doing that until you finish a draft. Set it aside, and then return to it, reworking lines and sentences, before setting it aside, and again reworking lines and sentences (and so on, and so on, and so on).