monday morsels: deadlines, owning it, revision, links

Know what I love about banana bread? It’s like eating cake for breakfast.

Monday night already! This week, my house seems empty and quiet — no toddler in sight. We hardly knew what to do with ourselves at Monday Poets. But when the rubber hit the road, we got our coffee and treats and got down to business. I thought I’d share a few things we talked about today, quick and dirty.

Deadlines have power. We agreed that having a deadline inspires work in a way that not having deadlines can’t. In fact, I’ve learned to give myself deadlines, and then pretend someone else gave them to me. I’ve used this excuse for why I can’t (fill-in-the-blank volunteer opportunity here): “Sorry, I’m working on a big deadline so I can’t do it.” And it’s always true — it’s just that self-imposed deadlines are harder to hold ourselves to, aren’t they? I hereby give you permission to treat your self-imposed deadlines like they came down from on high carved in stone.

Owning it. We talked about the power of claiming the title ‘poet’ or ‘writer’ — how that very act can help us, and those around us, take our work more seriously. On a side note, we laughed about how whenever you tell someone, “I’m a poet,” they (if not completely dumbfounded) ask, “Oh, have you published anything?” Did you ever hear anyone ask a surgeon if she’s ever completed a successful prodedure? Ask an attorney if she has any clients? Ask a teacher, “Have your students ever learned anything from you?” We had a good laugh thinking up questions we could ask people of other professions. All in good fun, of course.

Craft topic: revision. We all brought our own collections of revision tips, and highlighted our personal favorites. Then someone asked which revision tips I use most often — and I really had to think about that, but here’s what I do most often:

  • cut syllables (e.g., if there’s a two-syllable word that can be replaced with a one-syllable word, I replace it)
  • revise for sound/music (yes, sometimes this means adding syllables back in)
  • research etymology of important words to see if the words’ roots inspire any changes to the poem
  • re-lineate in couplets (for some reason, when I can’t figure out line breaks in other forms, doing a draft in couplets really helps me figure out line breaks)
  • re-draft, starting from scratch

Other favorite tips from the Mondays:

  • cram the draft into a form
  • write the poem over from last line to first
  • double space the poem, then add lines between existing lines to see what happens
  • go back to early drafts to see what hasn’t made it into the current version, and whether it might belong (I never do this! But I’m going to start!)

Links we shared (I have not read all these so I can’t vouch for their usefulness yet):

one zillion writing prompts from Charles Bernstein
Kay Ryan on recombinant rhyme
Linda Gregg on the art of finding
David Lehman on the Cento

As usual, I enjoyed the good company, the poetry talk, and the excellent treats. Now it’s bedtime already. Hope your week is off to a good start, and thanks for reading.

7 thoughts on “monday morsels: deadlines, owning it, revision, links

  1. *Sigh* For me, sticking to self-imposed deadlines is like sticking to self-imposed diets…
    but, I am cracking up right now over the questions to ask people of other professions….I haven’t actually said to anyone, “I’m a poet”, but a couple of my friends have, and my daughter loves telling people that. Then again, she used tell everyone I was a magazine editor because I like to clip, organize and save pictures from magazines in notebooks.

    Love all of the revision tips you’ve been including in the posts and have been saving every one of them! I do the couplet thing too. It always helps for some reason.

    You have a great week as well, and thanks yourself for blogging!

    • I’ve been surprised at how often a word’s roots’ have pointed me toward what the poem is trying to be. It’s like the words *know* or something! Hope it’s a useful strategy for you.

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