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Poet | Writer | Teacher
I use the idea of an accordion to illustrate my style of editing.
The Accordion Principle of Poetry is the literary philosophy I use to polish my work. I never consider a poem finished after I wrap up the first draft. Instead, I hustle words on the page, let it breathe, and then return to it later with fresh eyes. It is time to edit. This is when my accordion comes into play.
I use the idea of an accordion to illustrate my style of editing. First, remove words (compress) without losing the lyrical essence. Take time to look at each line, then slide it over to a friend or colleague for their impression. Does the condensed version say everything you feel? Remember, it takes greater skill to say it with fewer words than with many.
Next, use free association to dash out (decompress) and attach new ideas, descriptions, references, or whole stanzas. Again, relax and take a moment to read the new product. Often surprises await that hide beneath the surface. Let the same individual/editor as before read what you built for feedback.
Repeat this process allowing time to whistle out of you the true meaning. Like learning the accordion, never rush your composition. Let it find you. Forcing a point will stunt your poem’s growth. Never limit yourself.
Here is a poem of mine I recently used as practice:
Breaking the Steady Bender
I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. During these fits of absolute unconsciousness, I drank – God only knows how often or how much. As a matter of course, my enemies referred the insanity to the drink, rather than the drink to the insanity.
Edgar Allan Poe
It is not romantic,
nor necessary dark magic,
to be a drunk.
friends fear your
late-night phone calls.
They do not fear you.
You, a callus next-of-kin,
foul – father, brother, son,
the family sees their tree
has another apple
into a stupor.
You, the causality
of moral torpor.
An alcoholic apathy
was my altar,
a fetid womb.
God and the poet’s
pulled me out
of that tomb.
It is true.
I didn’t expire
in the addled
by and by
is the worst way
I set out to create a poem as a bookend to “Judas Noose Tavern” in my first book. The tone of “Judas” left a forlorn feeling that addiction can’t be overcome. The idea of closing the circle never occurred to me until I cleared my head for inspiration. After I looked at the finished product I:
- Felt that the title and quote only worsened the hopeless feeling achieved in “Judas.” I didn’t like that.
- There was a judgmental tone towards the “you” at the beginning I found unattractive and counterproductive.
- My beating my demons by the end speaks from a haughty place not true in me or constructive for the reader.
I let the discomfort settle over me, and for weeks I stared at the poem. One day it hit me to go back to the spark that lit my inspiration – I wanted to bookend “Judas.” To do that I used the sobriety and poetic growth of the last twenty years since “Judas Noose Tavern” came into existence, and the storyteller perked up. I thought, “What if this poem is written by Bacchus? What if he got tired of the boozy, party-fueled scene and retired? What would he remember, and what warning/hope for others would he impart?”
The childlike wonder sat up, my fingers sped ahead, and this is what I created:
Bacchus sits back with his dignity intact
and reminisces about good luck:
“It isn’t romantic, instead sadly tragic,
to waste one’s life as a drunk.”
Sour consequences and fictitious offenses,
the Lord of Libations speaks of regret,
“Dashell Hammett wrote well. Joplin sang true.
a blacklisted falcon and screeching brunette.”
“Barrooms breed black eyes, and a fool’s folklore,”
taps his smoke growing dour,
“Shotgun claimed Cobain; needles Bird’s ‘nevermore’.”
Bacchus detaches from the past to this hour.
“A family sees their tree has another apple
watering itself into a stupor.”
No good reason except bad timing,
the fate of a slack-faced interloper.
Rock back, rock forward, “An alcoholic apathy
was my altar. Kerouac shared that fetid womb.”
Bacchus blew smoke rings around lost chastity.
“Jesus and the Mary Chain
coaxed me out of that tomb.”
Blue eyes hovered over his ocean view.
Peaceful, humble, healthy, subdued,
a respite being rescued enjoyed by too few.
Do you miss it? Not the women? Not the old crew?
The decommissioned deity is asked every day.
“Not a bit. I got a good one. Good company was overdue.”
Bacchus listens to Bach, breathes deep, then smiles.
No one to argue or harangue over mountains for miles,
and he whispers before a nap, “Good folks, I didn’t expire
in the addled by and by because death-by-cliché
is the worst way to die.”
As you can see:
- I dropped the title and drudgery of Poe’s quote.
- The scene is far more panoramic, and the judgmental over/undertones are removed.
- I brought back the spirit of “Judas Noose Tavern” by highlighting folks who succumbed to alcoholism and drug addiction.
- There are bits salvaged from the original.
Is the poem a done deal? No, but it’s close. Some of my thoughts are to clean up some of the loose rhymes, add people in the last stanza who did face down their demons, and tinker with the title. Am I unhappy with the original? No, it’s an opportunity do improve.
A cool gift to give your reader is a poem that shows your internal machinery. Do not change a poem from a magazine publication to book “just because.” However, never feel locked-in to a poem because it’s been published. Poetry breathes. Let it breathe.
Few poems in my experience end up expressing what I initially set out to say. There is an ethereal quality to poetry more song than prose. Channel the spirit of Weird Al Yankovic, and accordion your poetry to life.
The toolbox of constructive thinking and healthy living includes both religion and philosophy,
Carl Jung said that everything before 40 is practice. I believe it. Through trial and error I think I’ve collected the proper tools to steer clear of chaos. At 44-years-old my main objective is to stay on a positive path of productivity and self-improvement. God is my guiding light. Stoic philosophy is my steady companion. Clear self-awareness is my compass. I believe a firm foundation for right living begins in a marriage of philosophy and religion.
It’s a tricky business to claim a philosophy. Like picking a faith, philosophy comes with countless options, flavors, and accessories. My combination platter of sanity contains generous helpings of the Stoics and the Episcopal church. As a fan of the Stoics, my philosophical footing is firmly in their camp. In 2018, I converted to the Episcopal church. Yes, there are points of historical and ideological contention between the two. So there is between people. So there is within ourselves.
Over time I will check back with blog posts about this process of evolution. Immediate changes are an increase in patience, improved listening ability, and fewer bouts of anger. Seneca says, “All cruelty springs from weakness.” Marcus Aurelius tells us, “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” James 1:19-20 reads, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
There is a portion of one letter from the Apostle Paul I want to highlight: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galatians 5: 13-15)
Belief and logic are not anathema in my mind. They are an inspiring odd couple. Reality is best met straight on with an arsenal of reason in a leap of faith. How can you fail to be fired up to read:
“It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.” – Marcus Aurelius
“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca
“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” – Epictetus
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.” – Viktor Frankl
I challenge you to do a bit of deconstruction and re-evaluation. Looking outside my two pillars of Stoic thought and Christian faith I pick up other ideas like Rene Descartes‘ bit about, “I think therefore I am,” and, “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” There’s the good ole standby of Socrates, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Circle back to the Bible, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “but test everything, hold fast to what is good.”
I am not suggesting anyone throw out what they know to be true. Keep what is good. Think about it. Follow your gut. Here I share my baby steps down a peaceful way in the woods that is far from lost.
Faith is the foundation of my new life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
Faith in God bolts me into reality with a beautiful view of the ocean. I grew up in a Southern Baptist congregation. The preachers of my early and teen years never condemned anyone or shouted about damnation. Both men were brilliant, happy, eloquent storytellers who conveyed a constant message that God is love, not a tyrant. Though my church attendance was insisted upon by my parents, I never disliked the experience.
In college I stopped going to church. No dramatic falling-out event with God caused my absence. Campbell University and later Shorter University surrounded me with the Spirit, even if I failed to notice at the time. I felt too busy for an hour of worship Sunday morning. In retrospect, I know bad decisions, hard times, and rising frustration grew from my soulful alienation. That being said, my life has largely been one of joy. Only in the last few years has the tide turned into a series of unfortunate events.
Last year I hit as close to rock bottom as I care to get. A moment of clarity shed light on the fact that God was the only one left who didn’t deeply distrust me. My mother suggested an Episcopal church ten minutes from my home, and after sitting through one sermon I was hooked. An overwhelming peace engulfs me when I attend, and now it goes with me into the world. Here are the 5 ways faith improves my life:
- The Ability to Accept Forgiveness: I am good at hating myself. Self-loathing locked me into addiction. If I could get high enough to forget the monster in the mirror, that beast didn’t exist. In my chemically-enhanced forgetfulness that creature grew fierce. The love of Jesus Christ gave me permission to retire my Hyde, love myself, and accept not only His forgiveness, but my own.
- The Removal of Doubt: Due to my autism and history of intemperance, I developed a crushing case of doubt. I overthought everything. Prayer, parents, priests, therapist, and trustworthy friends prevent me from losing sleep over situations outside my control. A clear mind provides sound conclusions. In the event a decision collides with confusion, I know God will provide insight.
- An Unmatched Sense of Peace: For a million reasons, I accepted that Drama and its sister Chaos were permanent members of the artistic ideal. They are not. When I got out of the way and let God take the wheel, the relief gave me clarity to abandon bad habits, conviction to walk away from poisonous people, and resolve to protect my newfound peace at all cost. You can be dramatic, or you can be successful. You cannot be both.
- The Cultivation of Patience: If I develop any personality trait as a superpower, please let it be patience. Patience blossomed once I accepted absolution, settled my hobgoblins of doubt, carved out drama, and took up the philosophy of: All good things come to those who wait. That doesn’t mean apathy or inaction. It means keep on keepin’ on and stop thinking the world’s clock runs on my time.
- An Unbelievable Level of Productivity: Spiritual due diligence makes space for productive activity. I move deliberately, confidently through the day with a schedule mapped out with scripture study, quiet meditation, necessary naps, time with friends, dates with my sweetheart, writing assignments, reading hours, and gym visits. I get everything accomplished with minimal interference from my “monkey mind.”
God is good. If I get cocky and topple off my cloud, it is not the Lord’s wrath. Negativity befalls me as a consequence of unwise action. Taking everything personally is vain. People lash out. Stress stems from being alive. Fretting about the next hour, afternoon, or tomorrow solves nothing. I find solace in the lives of saints. Good people in life increase serenity. Striving for perfection is folly. There is great wisdom in the word of God. I sleep deeper knowing Mother Mary is always with me. Jesus is just alright with me.
My life as a writer is not unique, but the joy it's brought is unique to me.
My life as a writer is not unique, but the joy it’s brought is unique to me. Fact is, I have recently come into my stride as a troubadour. This is not to say I discount the material produced before this epiphany-of-soul, but rather an admission that the happiness I now cherish creates literature free of fear, drama, and chemical dependence. There is a poisonous, long-standing myth that to write effectively, you must do so from a place of desperation. That is a lie. Desperation is a part of life and thus deserves a spot in your panoramic worldview, but in my tenure as word spinner, misery only begets misery, and misery gets old quick.
I adore my first three books. My struggles, ever-evolving philosophy, and triumphs are legitimately, honestly captured within those pages. Yet, during that decade of publication I was haunted by self-destructive habits, self-centered list of priorities, and toxic relationships. There were wonderful things that happened during this time, but they were often dotted with pockmarks of my bad decisions. Alcoholism from my early twenties reared its head once in a while. A new addiction to my prescription medication did me no favors. My low self-esteem and undiagnosed autism often made me incapable of gauging a tragic romance or friendship ahead of time, and/or feeling unworthy of anything better.
All of this is evident in my work. I am a zealot for telling the truth during victory and defeat. I do not point out a mental health condition or person as the culprit in my tumultuous last few years. That blame is justifiably on me. Instead of finding a remedy for my constant unrest, I threw my efforts into building the Southern Collective Experience LLC. I do not regret one ounce of energy, time, or emotion I feel God put me here to create. In its organization I ran across an army of men and women who taught me who I did not want in the company, those who I do, and provided a highly effective crash course in organizational leadership. I hold no grudges. I believe that revenge poisons everything it touches.
In August of 2018 my prescription pill addiction, binge drinking, unaddressed past trauma, undiagnosed autism, an inability to forge a healthy romantic relationship, and a crippled spirit culminated in a grand mal seizure of my sense of self. For this first time since I was twenty-two, the bad far outweighed the good. I hadn’t written a word of consequence in over a year. Many friends, by necessity, removed themselves from my erratic behavior. I raged on anyone I perceived as the enemy. In a moment of legal and divine clarity, I realized the only villain in this story was me.
I began my rebirth by finding a church that spoke to me. One unexpected blessing from that church is a priest who sits with me two times a month to talk about God, forgiveness, and jazz music. I went back to my Alcoholic’s Anonymous family that never stands in judgement. I found a therapist I met fifteen years ago, and this time focused on my sore spots instead of glazing over them with a quip or half-hearted, “I’ll be fine.” In the face of withdrawals so painful I couldn’t sleep, I began to exercise, eat healthy, and write. The writing was a hobble at first, but as my mind cleared, it grew to a steady jog.
I put God first. I do not preach. I do not stand in judgement. I let resentments go and regrets free to the past. I am sober. I have created a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedule that, coupled with a balanced lifestyle, has made me a happy, efficient, and productive poet. I recharge in my hours spent landscaping. I flex my nerd muscles as the church librarian. I spend rejuvenating time with my parents. I’ve reconnected with my friends. I have a woman in my life who is the beat of my heart and former Marine. (Ergo: A source of happiness with the knowledge needed to hide my body in the event of foolishness.)
Life is good. I get up early and burn off my anxiety in productive ways instead of masking them with chemicals and/or uncaring folks. I do not have the answers for anything yet, but I am devoted to figuring it out. I urge anyone who reads this who knows the suffering I’ve endured to nip it in the bud. It doesn’t get better on its own. It sucks for a while, but nothing sucks worse than regret you can’t shake off. Please let me know your stories if you have time. I’d be honored to hear about your stories to add to my life as a writer.
Writing poetry is a craft, and these guidelines will help hone your skill.
Writing poetry is a soulful craft. If your aim is to write for cathartic or therapeutic ends, and then tuck the pages away for private, personal reflection – more power to you. If your goal is to purge life in ink for the reading public, there are ways to make that noble pursuit more effective. Below are 5 ways to write effective poetry that may guide you to reach a larger audience.
- Study the Art of Poetry: Know your craft before you launch into it. It is wise to do research, remain curious, and practice constantly for anything worth doing well. You do not necessarily need a formal education in poetry to nail down the specifics, but a peer group and/or mentor is a smart move. There is no single right way, but finding your way can be as exciting as the act of creation.
- Tell the Truth: Our society is starved for writing that is genuine, honest, and vulnerable. Take a hard look at yourself before you submit your work and ask yourself, “Am I being honest?” Poetry is the truth. It’s construction and delivery is you (metaphorically) naked in front of the world. Brutal honesty with a musical twist is often assumed to be metaphor. You get the cleansing of telling it like it is, and your readers get to enjoy the thinly-veiled mystery.
- Ask Yourself Why: Why use a sonnet? Why does the haiku fit your purpose? Why will iambic pentameter suit you? Why are you capitalizing every first letter in every first word of each line? If the form in which your write, or words you choose, comes naturally – run with it. It’s not advisable to use a poetic form to simply sport the form. The meaning will get lost in your mechanics.
- Learn Correct Grammar: Many folks who don’t consider themselves “poetry people” often think that because examples they read amount to cryptic imagery and absence of grammar. Grammar gives the reader road signs to follow and a foothold into the familiar found in prose. Capital letters note a change in thought. Commas, periods, semicolons. dashes, and parenthesis denote the poet’s thoughtful ebbs and flows. Grammar is not a detail. It is the foundation of writing.
- Less is More: My first mentor, Larry Fagin, taught me an invaluable lesson. He assigned me the task of writing poems using only monosyllabic words. What this accomplished is a habitual awareness of every-single-syllable I use, assessing their value, and thus understanding word economy. The longer the poem, the tighter the lines must be. Throw out “very” and “really.” Find the perfect word. It is our stock-and-trade.
There are more than these 5 ways to write effective poetry. In the near future I will follow up this list with others to help you grow as I do. These are a few useful guidelines that I have tested and found to be dead-bang gospel truths. I work diligently to pen my best efforts for those who do me the honor of reading them. We show, not tell. However, it is a breach of trust to show the reader nothing, and tell them even less.
There are healthy habits writers can develop that will enhance their creativity in the long-run.
Writers have a long history of not being heath-conscious folk. A total lack of attention to physical, mental, and spiritual well-being has somehow become tragically cliched to the life of a “real artist.” Misery begets only misery. I’ve produced higher-quality material at a steadily-productive rate since shifting my focus to being healthy and happy. Over the last twelve months I’ve found 5 healthy habits for writers that prove useful.
- Get Outside & Move Around: I have found exercise to be a cathartic as well as emotionally balancing practice. You don’t have to go to the gym or spend money on classes. There are countless stories of writers who get their best ideas on a long walk. Sunlight gives us vitamin D. Vitamin D aids in the battle against depression. If stress seems intolerable, I promise you’ll feel better after half an hour of exercise.
- Stay Away from Drugs & Alcohol: Moderate use of legal substances is not what I’m talking about. As an addict and alcoholic, I do not have the ability to partake with any semblance of control. If you can, disregard this step. Be wary of using words like, “I need,” or, “I have to have,” when discussing chemical use in your creative process. No matter how bad you think your writer’s block is, addiction makes it far worse.
- Create & Maintain a Schedule: We artists balk at the notion of being restricted by a schedule. Without one I waste time trying to figure out what to do next. I began keeping a schedule in September of 2018, now (just eight months later) I’ve gotten more done than in the last five years combined. Few things feel as satisfying as scratching off an item on your To-Do List. (Don’t be afraid to pencil in a nap every now-and-again.)
- Rediscover the Bliss of Books: I stopped reading because I got wrapped up in the business of writing. After my life imploded last August, the first thing I did was read the Bible. Good books brought me back to sanity. Now I read voraciously. Books are my constant vacation. I created a book club with close friends. I urge you to do the same. Kind company with Tolstoy between you is therapeutic.
- Find a Higher Power: I grew up enjoying church every Sunday. In my mid-twenties I fell out of the practice. In my early-forties I joined a new church because I realized the vacuum my life suffered in was due to the lack of a soulful home. Faith has given me more drive, strength, focus, and sense of forgiveness than anything tangible. Prayer and scripture are a part of my daily schedule. All other suggestions in my 5 healthy habits for writers are built upon this one.
These are ideas that help increase my level of chill in a mad world. I see a therapist to aid the cleansing practice of writing. I meet with my priest once or twice a month to talk about jazz and check my interpretation of scripture. Every day I spend time with genuine people, and waste no time with toxic individuals. The last suggestion I have is to clean up those things that make you the most uncomfortable. I’ll clarify these end notes soon, but please follow these links in the meantime. There are far more than 5 healthy habits for writers, but I pray that these find a way to help you.
Submittable is an integral part of a magazine's success.
When I began submitting to magazines, the idea of paying to do so felt like it went against the “artistic spirit.” When my company, the Southern Collective Experience LLC, created a journal of culture, the Blue Mountain Review, I quickly discovered my original assessment was bollocks. Reading submissions is time-consuming work. Providing tactfully-worded rejections letters, dealing with those who lash out due to them, and the ongoing work of getting those accepted into print is time-consuming work. The important word to focus on here is “work.”
Creating art is work. It is a labor of love, but that doesn’t mean that labor shouldn’t come with a price tag. At the start of one’s career the fact you are published by a reputable source is payment enough. However, as one’s career evolves, the product improves, and prestige is built, getting paid for your creation is not unreasonable. As an entrepreneur, author, and editor I understand this on an intrinsic level. I am on a mission to give back to the art community, as well as those on my team good enough to be editors. To turn good intentions into productive reality, I’ve decided to use Submittable in our submission and contest infrastructure. Here are 5 reasons to use Submittable.
- Organization: It is the cornerstone of any operation. Submittable allows you to keep all submissions in one place. Over the last three years of trial-and-error, the biggest stumbling block from submission-to-publication is keeping track of the deluge of material. Each editor often has to create another email account to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. The magazine designer has quadruple-duty to keep track of accepted materials in line for transfer. Submittable allows an entity to streamline the process and, most importantly, eliminate undo stress.
- Accountability: Trust is tantamount to success. Submittable allows the administrators to keep up with each editor’s progress, when submissions are read, and when they are transferred to the que for publication. This holds all those involved accountable, including the editor-in-chief.
- An Option for Good Karma: I think that a category for free submissions is an excellent idea for the artist and good karma. However, this also gives editors a breather as those that are free understand that they won’t hear back for a longer period of time. This is by no means a punishment, but a necessary understanding between writer and magazine that we understand that money can be tight, but our time is often limited.
- Submission Feedback: In my time spent researching the benefits of Submittable, one that I didn’t consider is an option for feedback on submissions. We always want to know why our work wasn’t chosen, or tips on how the piece could be improved when it is. This takes an enormous amount of time to accommodate. Since time is money, many magazines have an option (for a set fee) to allow this piece of the pie to be served.
- A Just Reward: It has been a joy to create and produce the Blue Mountain Review. My drive has been to build a journal of culture that delivers high-quality content as well as reward those who helped bring it to the public. One of the reasons to use Submittable is to use a portion of the submission fees to pay the editors. Once the ball gets rolling, those who are published will also be paid for the honor of their hard work.
There are other reasons to use Submittable. I will write another post concerning those as I work out the kinks on my end. A goal I have set for the Southern Collective Experience LLC is to hold regular contests. Contests can be added to your account for easy upkeep from submission, submission fees, to the judge, and his or her top picks. I believe that the monetization of one’s company is essential to its existence. I am an avid proponent to giving some of those hard-earned dollars to charity in thanks to the Powers that Be for ground gained in the art world.
It is important to me that you understand why this change is taking place, and how it can benefit you. I am always open to feedback and questions. I write this as further proof I live and work with complete transparency. Just as your work deserves reward, so does your trust.
Rejection is never easy, but a valuable learning tool.
Writing is not a miserable lot fraught with loneliness, depression, and rejection. I find the act of writing therapeutic, liberating, and sometimes met with literary rejection. I think “rejection” is the wrong word. Unless you are in a monogamous relationship with some literary journal or publishing house, you’re not “rejected.” The person or persons in question politely “passed on your efforts.” The study of semantics does not make it sting any less. Yet, success does require a healthy perspective, thick skin, and guiding hand. In this blog post I want to be the last of these by offering 5 ways to deal with rejection.
- Process that Rejection Sucks, but a Necessary Evil: I cannot count how many times my work has failed to impress. With age I find it easier to read the hated line, “We appreciated reading your submission, but…” and not dip into anger, doubt, and/or plot for revenge. I take a deep breath, note the suck-factor, accept it, and then re-evaluate my efforts. You do not know the editor personally. He or she could’ve decided no one was getting in that day. Perhaps their ex has the same name as you. Then there’s the chance that maybe (just maybe) the product needs a tweak or two. If getting published came easy, anyone could do it. They can’t. You can.
- See this as a Second Chance: Second chances do not come often in life. We get them frequently in writing. This is a good thing. As mentioned above, a pass allows you to reassess word use, sentence structure, or find an overlooked grammatical error. Not getting published doesn’t mean the product is bad. There are a plethora of magazines to which you can submit. Do not allow one journal to throw you into a tailspin.
- Talk to Kindred Spirits: Misery loves company, but I love to laugh. Artists are an emotional, self-critical bunch. If you don’t have a creative tribe, find one. You’ve got your Schopenhauer/Eeyore brand, and then my flavor – the Montaigne/Winnie the Pooh peeps. Share your despair with folks who get it, but won’t let you mully-grub. A kind ear with an affectionate kick-to-the-rump will give you relief as well as a stirrup back-in-the-saddle.
- Workshop Your Product: I cannot stress how important it is to workshop your writing. Find a group who are serious about craft. If it’s guided by an instructor, make sure he or she is published. “Those who can’t do, teach,” is a tragically flawed mode of thinking. If your work doesn’t make the cut and you can’t see the problem, take it back to those who will give you constructive criticism without tearing you down. Your support system is also your trade school in the right situation.
- Be Patient: As a novice, when I received bad news, I let my temper get the best of me. I cursed, pouted, and then rushed to submit another poem to the same people, or the same poem to another magazine. That never proved a useful practice. “Be patient” can be irritating to hear, an annoying song, but it’s the crux of a deeper sense of calm and more productive creative life. Please be patient. Writing is a career. Lasting careers have setbacks. Anything done out of anger will not make you happy.
Above all else, remember not to take it personally. A thumb down is not a jab at your integrity, talent, or mother’s good name. I don’t like it. You don’t like it. However, I do hold firm to the mantras: Easy come, easy go. Anything worth having is worth the sacrifice. I hope that these 5 ways to deal with rejection help you face the day with a little less stress. We are solitary creatures, but you are never alone.
Social Media Promotion is a critical component of marketing your product. I believe that no one is better at marketing yourself than you. However, there are social media promotion companies who can offer you a full array of services to strengthen the reach of what you first take time to lay groundwork. I suggest a…
Social Media Promotion is a critical component of marketing your product. I believe that no one is better at marketing yourself than you. However, there are social media promotion companies who can offer you a full array of services to strengthen the reach of what you first take time to lay groundwork. I suggest a company that is close to home. I prefer that because, if there’s an issue, you can sit with them in-person to discuss it. That being said, here is a list of five best practices for social media promotion you can do on your own, for free, to set the tone for your online image.
- Be Honest: The problem with creating a persona anything other than who you are is that it’s a facade you must put time and effort into. This not only takes away from energy best spent on your art, it may come off as pretending. Our culture is rife with that as it is. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, be consistent and honest in how you represent yourself. For better or worse, social media promotion is a window into your life. Readers are starved for the real deal, and they can be critical when inconsistencies rear their heads. I always think of the tragedy behind A Million Little Pieces where the author thought he could pull a few little lies past Oprah Winfrey. He got caught, and it was ugly. Don’t be that guy.
- Save Your Battles Over Politics and Religion for Your Books: I am not saying to lack conviction when it comes to topics you’re passionate about. What I am saying is that if you make a point to take a stand, or worse yet – get into an internet war with an opponent, you will alienate readers. A mentor once told me, “You can be dramatic or successful, but you can’t be both.” I firmly agree. Your fan base is reading everything your write. Your haters are reading closer. Do not stoop to the level of someone trying to trip you in front of thousands of potential buyers. Weave what you believe into your books. You’ll sway more hearts and open more eyes through your books than a tiff online.
- Marry Genres in Your Advertising: Do not post whole poems or short stories online. Why would anyone buy your book when they can get it for free off Facebook? Instead, take a snippet of one piece, add it to a non-copyrighted image, and create a sensory advertisement that whets the appetite. You can go a step farther and plug a link to the song that inspired those lines. If you don’t have the technical skills to do this, like me, reach out to someone who can. It is money well-spent. This not only adds depth to the descriptive value of the advert, it also allows folks unique insight into you and your work.
- Do Not Beat People to Death with Advertising: Nothing turns me off from a person or product like accepting a friend request and immediately getting slammed with an epistle of how well they know me, how vital their product/service is to my life, and then demanding an immediate response. I find this on LinkedIn every day, and the only thing is accomplishes is me hitting the Block button. Be patient and do your research. Tailor your proposal to those who are looking for what’s in your wheelhouse or skill set. On Facebook, if you “like” someone’s page, don’t insinuate that they are obligated to do the same. Social media promotion is an art of salesmanship. Read up on effective sales techniques. Join pages and/or websites designed for promotion. When you meet readers in-person, take a minute to ask how life is treating them (and mean it) before attacking them with your sales pitch.
- Support Others with Abandon: Whether an introvert or extrovert, technology allows us to make business contacts, learn new things, reach millions of people, and discover cutting edge advertising advantages from the safety of our writing desks or smart phones. For half an hour in the morning, without looking at faces, names, ethnicity, or sexual preference I read what folks are passionate about, what they create, and how they promote. If I dig it, I share it. This is good karma, and what goes around comes around. Art is not a small pond with too many big fish. Art is an expanse of ocean with too many fish that don’t want to share. If you focus only on you and never look out the window, you are missing opportunities to live, learn, and grow. I’ve made 90% of my lasting friendships and book sales by sticking to this principle.
Now, before I wrap this up, understand that I know these five best practices for social media promotion due to trial and error. I’ve made a fool of myself on more than one occasion. I try to keep my ego in-check, and some days are harder than others. My goal in these blog posts is to share with you what works, and hope I help you dodge a few of the potholes I hit head-on. If you help good men and women up with good works, miracles happen. Put on your true face. Don’t be afraid to promote what moves you. Show passion with couth and tact. No one can promote you better than you.
As a poetry writer responsible for three books, and poetry editor for the Blue Mountain Review, I have experience on both sides of the submission divide. My goal is to help writers understand the nuts and bolts of the publication process. Let me say upfront that there will be no blog post written by me…
As a poetry writer responsible for three books, and poetry editor for the Blue Mountain Review, I have experience on both sides of the submission divide. My goal is to help writers understand the nuts and bolts of the publication process. Let me say upfront that there will be no blog post written by me for the purpose of making fun of, disrespecting, or ostracizing people. My focus here is to create a hub of useful information. The submission process can be arduous. I want to help make it easier for you.
- Write What You Know, and Make it Accessible – Convincing, accessible writing is the best writing. As a writer, I feel like I’m lying to the reader if I try to speak from a point of view I don’t know firsthand, or for those whose lives I have no intimate knowledge. If the work isn’t accessible, it is a locked room only you can get into. As an editor, it is blatantly obvious when a submission isn’t coming from a genuine place. If the language is vague or cryptic, I immediately lose interest. No matter what genre you choose, stick to what you know using a creative language others can get into. When you live by this rule, the practice of writing will be less stressful. It will be a pleasure to read, and your quiet integrity will increase the chances of publication.
- Edit Your Work – The muse can ease into us with a slow trickle or as a mad rush. When either happens to me, I breathe deep, get it on paper, and then take a walk to give my labor time to simmer. A few hours, a day, or a week later, I will return to that project with fresh eyes. Editing is a vital part of the publication success. Read it aloud to “hear” any hiccups. Let someone read it for grammatical errors. Do not rush to submit.
- Familiarize Yourself with the Magazine – Do your homework before choosing a literary journal. Don’t pick one for its name alone. What do they like to publish? What is their audience? Make sure they don’t print work that’s in conflict with what you believe. If you get accepted into a magazine that takes anything willy-nilly, it will undermine your hard work. Remember as well, don’t try to copy the work you see published because that violates Rule #1, and the effort will come off as a cheap knock-off.
- Follow the Submission Guidelines – If the magazine asks for your work to be pasted into the body of an email as well as attached in a document, follow it to the letter. If they want the attachment in a Word doc, don’t send a PDF. Often a bio is required, and/or a cover letter. Send one or both along, of course, but remember that less is more. If they don’t accept simultaneous submissions, do not submit the same poem to other magazines. If they do, and your work is accepted elsewhere, tell them immediately. Editors have a deluge of material to sift through on a deadline. The easier you make it on them, the more attractive your submission will be.
- Do Not Annoy the Editors – Your wait time to hear a verdict on your work is given in the submission guidelines. Do not harass editors with emails before the wait time is up for an answer. If they do not accept your work, don’t take it personally. Writing an angry retort reminiscent of an American Idol reject will not cause them to change their mind. More than likely, that will ruin any chance of a future submission being considered.
Publication is a rite-by-fire that divides the good writers from the great writers. If it were easy, anyone could do it, and that would devalue your God-given talent. Treat writing like a vocation, because it is. If you love writing, chances are folks will love reading it. However, before that love can be shared, there will be blood, sweat, and tears. Don’t give up. Study, write, read, share, and repeat. Sooner than you think, you’ll be smiling, dancing, and announcing your newfound success.