A few weeks ago I submitted the only poem I've written, revised, and submitted all year.
The verdict is still out on whether that poem will be accepted for publication, but after a long hiatus from writing, the experience of doing the work felt so freaking good.
I wanted to share a few tips that helped me hit the ground running when I finally created space or dedicated writing time:
TIP 1: Find a call for submissions that speaks to you. Having a prompt (in the form of the submissions guidelines) can help you find focus.
TIP 2: If the call itself feels too broad, give yourself more constraints by writing in a specific form. By constraining the form, you'll free yourself to play within the parameters of that form.
TIP 3: If you're feeling rusty on revising, Google (I'm not joking) "How to revise a poem / essay." You'll find a ton of articles and blog posts full of revision tips -- some awesome and, yes, some totally useless. I know you already know how to revise your own work, but sometimes getting a new assignment like, "highlight all the verbs" or "write the lines in the poem backwards" can help you see your piece in an entirely different light. Doing things to the poem you weren't already planning to do to it forces you to reconsider each word, and even your writing process over all.
I was invited to submit a piece for special issue on mothering and neurodiveristy.
With a fresh ADHD diagnoses, I had a lot to write about -- too much in fact. At first I thought I'd write an essay, with each section named after one of the executive functions (constraint), but even that felt too big and unwieldy.
So I decided to try for the compactness of a poem. Still my thoughts took me in a hundred different directions. I craved more structure.
I thumbed through my copy of An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of their Art to see if a specific form spoke to me as a potential container for this jumble of ideas.
I landed on the sestina, focusing on the executive functions as some of the final words. I figured I'd try the challenge of the form for fun and if it wasn't working I'd go in another direction (probably beginning with a 20 minute free write).
And oh man did I have fun!
Here's the thing, I started writing the poem in November when both kids were finally in preschool and I had regular time to myself for the first time in forever.
I can't fully describe how good it felt to sit at a coffee shop and tinker with words for an hour or two at a time for several days. Really, truly, joyful work.
In the end I submitted a bilingual sestina titled:
"De luto y sin dopamina" / "Mourning Missing Dopamine."
When I started, I had no idea that what I had in me was as much a grief poem as a mothering with ADHD poem. The form helped me uncover that inner knowing.
I'll let you know if it gets picked up. And if not, back to those lists of revision suggestions, revise, and resubmit elsewhere. #thework
I hope these three tips can help you get inspired or unstuck in your writing. Hit reply and let me know if any of them resonate with you or if you have your own go-to strategy for getting unstuck or finding focus. I'd love to commiserate with you about your writing process!