Do you remember NASA’s “faster, better. cheaper” venture in the 90s? It was based on the idea that by designing smaller missions that could launch more quickly, the agency might get more done, more efficiently, than if it pursued grand initiatives. Some of the missions fell down and went boom, but it did get NASA moving again after a decade of relative lethargy. Well, in that same spirit, I’m continuing on my mission of getting out at least a blog posting a week this year, even be they quick and dirty. And so on to this week’s theme- my writing track record in 2014.
A few years ago, I settled on the goal of making a publishing submission per week. Short story, essay, poetry, whatever, just submit something to a journal, offline or online, once a week. That would, of course, be 52 for the year, which has never happened yet due to holidays, hectic work weeks, feeling under the weather, what not. My operating theory is that having the target probably gets me delivering more, even if I miss, then if there was no target. Turns out that 2014 was my most submittingest year ever, with 43 total submissions, as attested to by my tracking spreadsheet:
My tracking spreadsheet also informs me that I’ve had two acceptances so far from things I submitted in 2014. One should be coming out in the Spring, and since I have a superstitious peasant mind, I don’t want to jinx by saying any more. The other was two poems that appeared in Misfit Magazine in October.
I also had several “near-misses”, i.e. places that wrote back to me and said something wasn’t quite right for them, and why, or that I was a semi-finalist but not a finalist. I actually find these to be nearly as motivating as acceptances. They’re kind of proof-of-concept of being on-track, and provide a lot more feedback than the form “Dear [insert name here]” rejections one usually gets, or the even more unnerving whistling silence of places that never answer back in any form.
In addition to the regular weekly submissions, I’ve also been submitting two larger works to presses and prizes: my unpublished poetry collection Pushing 40, and my unpublished novel Out in the Neon Night. I sent out the poetry collection ten times last year, and the novel seven. I’ll keep you posted on further developments…
My other major writing focus over the last year was to get more regular and disciplined about writing time, always a challenge for me given full-time work, a full-time relationship, recovery, other interests (including serving as a Poetry Editor at Mud Season Review), etc. In other words, life. Shout-outs to Tarin Towers for telling me “shut up and do it” (it was phrased more elegantly than that, but just as firmly) and my talented and lovely wife for helping me brainstorm about the how/when. I targeted 6 hours a week. And came not even close!
Excel informs me I ended up with 65.76 hours of writing time, which works out to an average of an hour and a quarter a week. Again, though, I have to believe that aiming got me further than winging it would have, and resulted in less of a sense of anxiety and drift. So what does 65.76 hours get you? In my case:
- Completing the (hopefully) penultimate draft of my full-length screenplay
- Revising a short story to get it down to a word-limit that will work better for submissions
- Starting a new short story
- Writing a personal essay looking back on Generation-X as seen through the lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” which I’m quite pleased with and currently submitting hither and yon
- Completing a challenge to write 40 poems in 40 days
- Writing a sestina, because the idea intrigued me