A lot of people seem to think poetry is all about the muse. It’s the mood; it has to strike you; it’s out of your control.
For me, that’s a bunch of…baloney.
Poetry is a craft that will benefit from discipline and practice. You may have varying amounts of natural talent and creativity. But these things can be increased and improved by simply working at it. Well, simply might not be the right word. But you know what I mean:>)
Years ago, in one year, I wrote 10 poetry books for Capstone Press, kept a photopoetry diary (where I tried to take a daily picture and write a 15 Words or Less poem based on the image), and worked on several trade poetry projects. I was writing poetry on an almost daily basis. Many days, I wrote more than one poem.
But sometimes, I don’t have any poetry books in progress. And that makes me a little nervous. Will I keep my skills sharp? Will I improve? Will I get lazy and let weeks go by without writing poems? When I want to make sure that doesn’t happen, I set some poetry goals.
Please note that I define goals as things I have control over. A goal to submit 3 poetry collections to my agent to market is fine. A goal to sell one of those collections isn’t. I have no control over whether an editor buys a collection. I can write, practice, revise, and meet my own deadlines. Then I have to let each project go and move on with other writing, while I hope an editor loves my projects being marketed.
Here are my poetry goals for one particular year. I don’t have the same goals every year, but this will give you a sense of how I force myself to be productive:>)
- Start each morning reading 5 poems out loud (any poems)
- Read at least 3 children’s poetry collections each month
- Read a how-to poetry-writing book every couple of months
- Write at least 5 poems per week
- Get feedback regularly on my poems from my critique groups
- Take at least one poetry class
- Complete at least one brand new poetry collection and submit to agent
- Explore at least 5 new poetic forms — write 2 or 3 of each kind
Did I meet all of these goals? Nope. But I met most of them. And meeting the goals I can control makes it more likely that I’ll achieve those things I don’t have control over, like actually selling poetry collections.
What poetry goals can you make? Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you work a full-time job and write other genres and are just starting to write poetry for kids, you might want just one poetry-reading goal (like read one children’s poetry book each week) and one poetry-writing goal (like write one poem per week).
Only you can know if your goals are good ones or not. If they push you to go a little further than you’ve gone before, to try new things, then they’re good goals. If they overwhelm you and make you feel worthless or incompetent, then they’re not good goals!
I hope this inspires you to go set some goals to motivate yourself and improve your poetry. Don’t compare your goals to my goals or anybody else’s. Remember, just push yourself to do a little more poetry-reading and ‑writing than you’re doing right now. That’s a great start!