Sunday, July 3, 2016

What's Holding Me Back?

Bringing organization to my paper life, another imperfect 
practice.  Image © Lori Gravley
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, trying to be more aware of practices and attitudes that keep me from moving forward.  I’ve come to realize that one thing that holds my poetry back is my organization (or lack of it). 

Over the past two years, I have written over 365 poems.  An average of one poem every two days.  This year, the goal, which I haven’t quite hit, has been a poem a day.  Some of them are wastrels, but some shimmer.  Some of them just need a little work. 

The thing is, I can’t really tell which is which because they live in a folder on my computer.  I’ve looked online for the perfect filing process, but I can’t find one.  I want to send the poems out, but I need to see them on paper and sort them.  I have three chapbooks organized.  I can think through twenty-five pages on my computer, but to organize a book, I need to print them out. 

And, I can’t remember which ones need work and which ones seem finished and are ready to fly.  Sometimes, I open a poem that I only vaguely remember writing. It’s so much more fun to start a new project than to organize an old one.  But, to get where I want to get with my writing, I need a little more organization. 

This became even more evident this morning, as I tried to organize my poetic biography of Christine de Pizan and couldn’t find all the poems I’d written this year that I wanted to include. 

And last week, when I was in South Africa I’d planned to begin organizing my book length collection of poems, tentatively titled Imperfect Practice.  Beyond thirty pages, I got confused and lost my place in the manuscript.  I need something physical.  So here’s what I’m thinking I’ll do.  In list form, because I love lists.

1.  Print out the drafts I’ve written this year and last.
2.  Organize at least three binders—one for Christine, one for Imperfect Practice, and another for poetry submissions.  The poetry submissions binder will include all the poems (including Christine and Imperfect Practice) organized into four categories.  Need work, ready to offer, out for consideration, and published. 
3.  I’m continuing my work with rejection, so I may also print out my rejections from this year and last and include them as another category in the submission binder.  Perhaps I’ll do the same for acceptances. 

Just writing the above plan makes the Lorax in me cringe.  But I have stacks of recycled paper with one side ready to reuse, so perhaps I’ll use that paper to make myself feel better about it.

I’d like to be able to get to a time when I can organize a longer book and my daily work just in the digital world, but until then, I’ll try this system, tinker with it, and see if organizing things on paper can help me be more intentional about my writing life.

And I'll also practice what I teach the participants in my courses but I've resisted in my writing life.  OHIO--Only handle it once.  I'll print my daily poems out and file them in the binder and put them in the manuscript folder (if appropriate) when I write them.  

These thoughts come out of questions I’ve been asking myself.  What do you do to organize your work and your poems?  Does it work?  How can you shift it so that it’s more workable for your success in the world? 

Have you found your answers to these questions or found the perfect way to organize your poetry?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.

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