Diary of a Poet

Review of my 2020 New Year’s Resolutions

I’m trying not to be too hard on myself—as I revisit my New Year’s Resolutions for 2020, I’m saddened by how few items on the list I completed. Of course, no one could have predicted the chaos and uproar the Coronavirus pandemic brought with it. With that in mind, I’m addressing each item on the list with a little more leniency than I normally would.

Erica’s 2020 New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Finish something big by the end of 2020. I have two big projects I’m working on right now: my second full-length collection of poems and a series of essays about being the parent of a child with a mental illness, which I plan to publish as a book. I’d like to have both manuscripts done and ready to send out before the end of the year.

I made incremental progress on both of these big projects, but neither is close to being finished. I’m closer on the poetry collection than on the essays.

  • Enter at least 5 contests. In 2019, I entered two contests. I won the first one and received an honorable mention in the second. That’s a better rate than my non-contest submissions. Both contests were free. Winning Writers has a good list of free contests.

I entered three contests and lost all of them. Oh well.

  • Organize my list of journals I wish to submit to by due date. So many times I’ve missed due dates because my spreadsheet of journals I’d like to submit my work to is organized alphabetically. Such an easy thing to do: just re-sort it by due date. I’m not sure why I haven’t done this yet! 

I did this, but for some reason still missed a bunch of due dates. Sigh.

  • Improve my vocabulary. I recently reviewed Michael Kriesel’s wonderful book of abecedarian poems, Zen Amen. This book introduced me to many strange and intriguing words, i.e., “Xenogenesis,” “apperception,” “tetragrammaton,” and “zygomancy.” I’m not sure any of these will work themselves into a poem of mine, but just reading them stimulated my brain. I’m glad I encountered them.

This is ongoing. The challenging thing is to add an unusual word to a piece of writing in a way that won’t confuse the reader, who might not have heard of the word. Perhaps using a word like that as a title would be better.

  • Explore poetic forms. I’ve written a few ghazals, one or two sestinas, many pantoums, a villanelle or two, even an abecedarian. I’m always gratified with how the limitation of forms increases creativity. Forms I’d like to try: the golden shovel, gnomic verse, and contrapuntal poems.

A friend of mine and I are writing forms together. So far we’ve written cinquains, terza rimas, and triolets. Right now we’re working on renga. I haven’t yet tried the golden shovel or the other forms I listed above.

  • Explore essay forms. I greatly enjoyed Vivian Wagner’s article about the “hermit crab essay,” which, to quote from the article, “takes the form of something un-essay-like—such as a recipe, how-to manual, or marriage license—and use this form to tell a story or explore a topic.”

I’ve written more flash essays this year, but not the hermit crab. 

  • Join the 100 rejections club. This means sending out far more submissions, which means I really need that list of journals I mentioned in #3. To quote Isaac Asimov, “You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success, but only if you persist (italics mine).”

I’m very happy to report that as of December 9, 2020, I’ve gotten MORE than 100 rejections. Well, not exactly happy, but at least I can cross this one off my list!

  • Attend writers’ conferences. In 2019, I went to AWP in Portland and the Oregon Poets Association (OPA) conference in Salem. In 2020, I plan to attend, at the very least, Willamette Writers in July and OPA in September. 

The quarantine pretty much wiped this out. Although some conferences were held online, I chose not to attend. For me, the fun is going somewhere that’s not my office, and seeing actual 3D humans. 

  • Freelance more. Research. Query. Pitch. Repeat.

I did send out some pitches, and got an essay accepted for Green Prints. However, my pitching performance was pretty lackluster. 

  • Increase the number of subscribers to Sticks & Stones. Right now, my list has approximately 450 active subscribers (the number fluctuates weekly). I’d love to get to 1000 by the end of 2020. 

My subscriber list did increase this year. I published a guest blog post for Trish Hopkinson and one for the Brevity blog, and both of these resulted in more subscribers. I also made an e-book, Erica Goss’s Guide to Writing Poetry Book Reviews, available as a gift for subscribing. This helped too. However, I’m nowhere near 1000 subscribers yet.

So what did I accomplish in 2020?

  • Forty new poems written
  • Twelve issues of Sticks & Stones
  • Fifteen reviews of poetry collections
  • Nineteen poems accepted for publication
  • Eight essays, articles and guest blog posts accepted for publication
  • One video poem screened at two festivals
  • Three video poems accepted for publication
  • Twelve posts at my personal blog

Not such a bad year after all.

I’ve heard from so many friends and family members that, due to the stress of 2020, their creativity stalled. Their feelings run the gamut from guilt to a kind of astonished frustration. 

I think of how nonchalantly I wrote my 2020 list, and, with so many of us suffering, how silly a list like that seems now. I’ll make my list for 2021 with a whole new appreciation for how quickly things can change.

May the writing flow, and if it doesn’t, may we learn to understand, if not appreciate, these fallow periods.

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