revisiting 2021 poetry goals: more resting than writing

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A year ago, I wrote, “Since there’s no guarantee 2021 is going to be any less pandemic-y than 2020, I’ve opted for a no nonsense approach to the year’s poetry goals.” The statement introduced a super simplified poetry action plan* for 2021 I thought I’d pared down enough to help me feel productive without applying too much pressure. However, 2021 required more rest and restoration than I’d anticipated. Every activity (writing-related or not) required a recovery period. While that may always have been true, I became acutely aware of the swing of the pendulum.

In looking back at the year, I also realized that most of the writing activities I did were in social/group settings (virtually, of course). I spent far less time with solo writing efforts, like crafting new poems, revising existing drafts and submitting work. It’s possible that my temperament throughout the year — never before have I needed so much mind-numbing downtime — made that true, but it’s also likely that so much engagement with others required more recovery than anticipated (and in comparison with solitary activities).

When I set goals for 2022 in the coming days, I’m going to take that into account and aim for a quieter, more inward-facing writing year. But I have no regrets about what I did/didn’t accomplish in 2021. I rested more than I wrote (2021 was also full of some huge life changes), but I showed up for workshops and readings that will inform and inspire me for years to come.

Here, for my own record-keeping, is how it all shook out:

2021 GOAL: Assemble a new poetry manuscript

Achieved! I had a few deadlines and publications in mind, but ultimately decided the manuscript wasn’t ready to submit, not because of lack of work or cohesion but because of new directions I want it to take. I created two or three versions of the manuscript, but there are some poems I want to take out and new ones that need to be written.

2021 GOAL: Submit an average of 1X/month

Came close! I submitted work (including my first-ever flash fiction submissions) 10 times in 2021, resulting in five publications. By nearly every measure I’m familiar with, this 12 submissions in a year is a low bar to start with. I hope to step it up in 2022.

2021 GOAL: Free write “regularly”


2021 GOAL: Turn something into a draft 1X/week

Seriously bonked this one & managed fewer than 20 new drafts in 2021… three or four of those are only partial drafts.

2021 GOAL: Attend 6 readings

Achieved and then some! Here’s a list:

  • January: Tom Natell Beret Toss (local Albany tradition)
  • January: Sarah Freligh reading from We (Small Harbor Publishing)
  • January: Laser Cat/Vaser Cat’s K-Day Reading! with Kayla Sargeson and Jan Beatty
  • February: Love Spells reading
  • February: Laser Cat/Vaser Cat Reading with Roripaugh, Himeles and Bathanti
  • March: Poetry Reading & Conversation: Kim Addonizio and Jan Beatty
  • April: Q&A with Sarah Freligh (Writers & Books)
  • April: Sudden Strangeness Pandemic reading
  • October: Patricia Dobler Award reading (Madwomen with Denise Duhamel)
  • November: Creative Life Conversation Series (SUNY/NYSWI) with Roxane Gay and Debbie Millman
  • November: NYSWI Q&A with Melissa Febos

2021 GOAL: Hide away 3X for a solo writing retreat

Another bonk… but with a footnote. I only got away once to write — squeezing it in at practically the last minute (early December). It was a reminder of how delightful it can be and why it’s so valuable.

And here’s the footnote to this goal… Even though I didn’t DIY three retreats as intended, I went a little nuts with virtual workshops. Looking at the list now, it is also interesting to see the dates and note that I clearly came out of the gate too strong. Here’s what I attended in 2021:

  • Madwomen weekly workshops, Spring (January to April), Summer (June) and Fall (September to November) sessions
  • Local writing group monthly workshop (Spring only)
  • Mentorship from Madwomen (Spring only)
  • January: Sonnet workshop with Kim Addonizio
  • January: Confessional poetry writing workshop with SAFTA and Ashley Elizabeth
  • January: Poetry Xfit writing workshop with SAFTA
  • January: The Heartfelt & Heartbroken – Writing Evocative Love Poems workshop with John Sibley Williams
  • February: Surprise! With Kelly Grace Thomas
  • February: Writing the sacred self workshop with SAFTA
  • February: Poetry Xfit writing workshop with SAFTA
  • February: Flash nonfiction with Hannah Greico and CWAB
  • March: Micro fiction workshop with Sarah Freligh
  • March: The Magic & Mining of Metaphor with Kelly Grace Thomas
  • May: Building Your Body of Work with a Daily Writing Practice with Cecelia Woloch
  • October: Denise Duhamel on Repetition (via Madwomen)
  • December: Praise and Celebration – Mastering the Poetic Ode with John Sibley Williams

2021 bonus accomplishments

I didn’t set official goals for publishing here on the blog, but I did have a plan in mind. I didn’t stick to it in terms of frequency, but I did publish a couple dozen posts:

  • Essays: 10 posts
  • Reading notes: 5 posts
  • Prompt posts: 10 posts (including my April 2021 NAPOWRIMO prompts post, which contained 30 prompts)

I also used my modest SEO skills to build organic traffic, including getting lots more eyes on my poetry prompts. The result was 2-3X more traffic in 2021 — in terms of both visitors and page views — than in any year prior.

*Written always with a nod toward January O’Neil (Poet Mom), whose annual poetry action plans inspired me to adopt the same tradition.

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