As a poet, I have no trouble writing often and making the process a priority. The challenge for me is after I have a whole bunch of work, when I need to decide what to do with it. Where will I submit individual batches of poems? What kind of collection could I shape my work into? What are the submission deadlines for contests and publications, and what format do they prefer the work in? Who do I need to follow up with or respond to in email?
Here’s the irony--I hate being micro-managed in my job (and in my teaching and editing work, I’m lucky to feel mostly autonomous, with support when I need it), but when it comes to making creative work, it is easy to wish we had a taskmaster telling us what to do and when. It can be overwhelming to know that ultimately, we are accountable for our art, and what we do with it.
No one else is going to do it for us. Unfortunately and fortunately.
I don’t mean that artists should suddenly transform into marketers, accountants, lawyers, CEO’s, editors, web designers, and PR coordinators. We aren’t that lucky. Wouldn’t it be great if we could?
A large part of being an artist feels like an unpaid internship. I am my own intern (not to be confused with being my own Grandpa--see Fig. 1).
It’s scary but necessary to accept responsibility for what we do with what we make. For me, it’s a constant challenge to stay organized with my submissions. I procrastinate around the silliest, strangest details. For example, I have a newish manuscript of poems, and before I sent it out, I was tinkering with the font. Palatino or Georgia? Or Caslon? Caslon, that’s it! Or maybe just Georgia. Wait, numbers look weird now. I’m just not a Helvetica person. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m not cool enough for Helvetica. I need to find the perfect font for me, which is probably slightly uncool.
For two days, I was saying this to myself. I finally took a break and thought, “Wait, why am I focusing on this?! If a publisher accepts this manuscript, they will reformat and edit it!” Once I take a step back and laugh at how neurotic I’m being, I can usually make a quick decision.
Let me be clear: I am not complaining about how hard it is to be a poet. No one is forcing me to do this. I do it because I adore it. It’s my choice. And I welcome what I learn and the challenges I am given---and even the stupid challenges I keep creating for myself.
Now I hope to hear from you! In your work as your own intern, what are your frustrations? What helps you stay organized or on task?