poetry goals for 2020

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It’s been a couple of years since I outlined poetry goals. Although I did outline personal intentions — selection of a word (fuel) for 2018 and 2018’s midyear reclaiming of Eat, Pray, Love, which carried me well into 2019 — my creative drive really languished during the last couple of years.

2018 began with a writing retreat that, instead of being a gift of time and focus, signaled to me that my creative and social energy was flagging. It’s a tough place to be — immersed in the strange mix of solitude and community that these retreats offer — when realizing you may need a sabbatical from the very thing you’ve traveled away from home to do.

At the time, I didn’t have words for it (though I wrote about it much later in a post about self care for writers), and I wasn’t entirely aware of why I felt lousy about my creative endeavors. I even kept submitting poems (work I’d written in 2017 mostly) and was happy to secure a handful of really cool placements.

By 2019, I began to figure out that I just needed to pull back and to do so purposefully (i.e. let myself off the hook for all the things I wasn’t doing). And so I did. I managed, for almost a full year, to have nearly zero expectations for my creative life.

But as anyone who goes through these cycles knows, eventually some shiny object grabs your attention and warms you back up to the idea of jumping back in. For me, it was the 100-book poetry reading project I kicked off in late August. I told myself if I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) write, I could at least read. I wrote a little bit about how that began to open me back up here. I can also say it inspired me to return to blogging, which has always been part of my creative process.

As exhausted as I am from some other parts of my life, I’m ready to start revving the creative engines again. I see the next 18 months or so as the time I need to get my poetry legs back underneath me. Not coincidentally, this marks a span of time at the end of which I will likely have an empty nest and could (theoretically) reshape what my writing life looks like. Instead of that time representing a kind of relaunch, I want to re-engage now so that I am prepared to take advantage of new opportunities that may come along. In other words, I’m getting hungry again. And I plan to take some big ass bites out of all the ooey-gooey sandwiches I can.

And so here they are: writing/creativity goals in the form of…


Write 5 new drafts each month
Recently, when I looked at the document of fragments I typed from my notebook in 2019, I realized it was 26 pages long (single spaced). And that was while I was taking time “off.” So! When I am not taking time off, I can clearly generate enough raw material to support this goal. The trick will be managing the time, energy and focus to shape notes and fragments into drafts.

Write and revise toward a new manuscript
I have a number of poems from my previous manuscript/s and also some stray poems that I plan to include in a new manuscript. Recently, I also conceptualized a key theme/approach for that new book-length collection. By 12/1, I’d like to have a first draft.

“Apply” myself (i.e. take a chance on new opportunities)
In the past, putting myself out there has taken the form of submitting work to journals. I will likely pick that up again in 2020, but this year, my focus for “applying myself” will be actual applications, even for long-shot opportunities, including an NEA grant (March 2020) and for writing residencies (TBD, but with the goal of securing at least one for 2021).

Continue to make collage/visual art
In 2019, I returned to an activity I love: collage. I started an Instagram account (@gooduniversenextdoor) to share the work, and I intend to continue in 2020. I also plan to take a class or two in 2020 to refresh my drawing skills.

Re-engage with my local writing community
Life is hectic, and I’ve been lazy about attending open mics and readings. I want to get back out there in 2020 and reconnect with my local community. Since I’m not yet in that empty nest phase, I’m setting a modest goal of 6 local poetry events for the year.

Finish my 100 books reading project
I’ll be seeing this project through even if it takes me longer than the 12-month time frame that was supposed to contain it. The only rule? No giving up based on falling behind.

What this will require:

  • Track progress. (Use my bullet journal to keep tabs & plan activities that support these goals.)
  • Attempt one writing-related task each day, no matter how small.
  • Commit to — and schedule — writing time. (I will aim for one quiet morning a week as described here, one “office hours” session of 3-4 hours/month and writing/reading during lunch 2-3 days/week.
  • Reclaim time/energy where possible, such as limiting social media and news consumption and sometimes prioritizing this work above other commitments.
  • Stay flexible.
  • Be kind to myself.
  • Have fun!

*Written always with a nod toward January O’Neil (Poet Mom), who has written an annual poetry action plan for as long as I’ve known her and from whom I got the inspiration to do so myself

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