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Chapter #12 - Publish As You Write
Do It All: Use Publishing As Part Of Your Learning Experience

i. Publishing Poetry Makes You Rich

Publishing your poetry will make you rich in ways you never imagined. It may not bring you a lot of money; but money is only valuable when it can buy you what you really want and need, and what you will appreciate after you have it.

If your problem is that your credit cards are maxxed, and you want to buy a bigger house, poetry may not provide the immediate relief you are hoping for. If you want to learn to be more in tune with such intangibles as wisdom and happiness, you are likely to find poetry more reliable than money. But poetry may bring you some money, too, and that can add to your happiness.

ii. Aren't There Unhappy Poets?

There certainly have been some unhappy poets, but even the unhappy ones were richer because of their poetry. Don't despair that your poetry is all of one type. Poets, like artists, have periods or phases in their lives and work. It is important to save all your writing so you can learn to see these phases in yourself.

iii. Expect Cutting Critics And Supportive Friends

People ask whether they should publish their poetry. They often write about the cutting comments by some critics and the encouragement by friends. But critics are known for their cutting and friends for their their support. Poets write what is in them to write, and it almost always has a readership.

If I ask people whether they like Mexican food I will get many responses, but if I ask Mexicans if they like Mexican food, they will look at me as if I am nuts. They know that each Mexican family has preferences that do not allow for the stereotyping generalization. If I look at the real world I will find many kinds of restaurants; and people choose them all.

iv. Do You Want To Express Your Feelings Or Ideas, Or Do You Just Want Applause?

If I intend to start a restaurant in my town, or publish my poems in my local newspaper, I need to know the town and the newspaper, or to know myself and take my chances. But the restaurant that would fail in my home town might do very well in another town or even a different part of town. If I just want to cook for people, I am more likely to find acceptance from my children. There are few people who wouldn't eat Mom's or Dad's cooking. There are few relatives who won't at least read a poet's poems.

v. You Don't Have To Satisfy The Whole Market, Just Find A Home For Your Poems

If you want to express yourself in poetry, it does not matter as much how it fits into the market. It is your honest expression for anybody who cares for the same things. If on the other hand you want to sell fifty-thousand copies of your book, you may have to learn more about marketing strategies or just strike it lucky, randomly writing what some publisher wants to promote at the moment. Succeeding with such a random approach is about as likely as getting struck by lightning. But if you want to be struck by lightning, it helps to get out in the rain. If you have a book manuscript you will need to have knowledge of how to seek out the appropriate publisher and sell your idea.

vi. Did I Say Skill Is Not Important?

You will have a much greater chance of selling books if you have skills in the established techniques of writing poems. Don't let the lack stop you. Everyone starts with many deficiencies. Everyone has a chance of developing skills. You have to start with your own reasons and motivation and pick up other elements along the way. You don't need all the skills. Like the restaurant analogy, everybody serves a different part of the market.

vii. Don't Let Somebody Else Make All The Rules For Your Writing

You are out to enrich your own life through poetry; and it will work if you write what is important to you and then work to improve it your way. After you have written, you need to find people who value the same things you do. They will publish your work. If you find them, they will provide further guidance and encouragement far beyond the criticism you may fear. Identifying the publishers who hate your work will teach you how to avoid them in the future. You may also pick up some tips from them.

viii. Expect Friends In Publishing: There Are People Like You, Just Waiting For You To Come Along

You should be aware of the difference between an editorial response that is generally discouraging and one that is generally encouraging. The encouraging one although it rejects this batch of poems may be an invitation to submit more. The discouraging one may be only a sign you should not waste your time pursuing that particular publisher. Both of these are helping you zero in on publishers who will like what you write. Remember that most poets and editors are interested in good poetry and in helping writers improve. They are all delighted by a well-written poem that says something they would have liked to say.

ix. Read Widely: Know The Territory

Remember that some ideas are almost universal. These ideas intrigue many writers. Some people think they have an original idea when they are just remembering the words of a song they have heard recently. Read poets who have interests in common with you. Get familiar with their writing; and discover how to say something that is very individual to you. If you are saying a well-known truth, try to say it in a new way. The golden rule has been restated by thousands of poets in their own words as has the saying, seize the day. There is a vast storehouse of seize the day poetry. Feel free to add yours, but don't think you invented the words, wake up and smell the roses. You will probably find that there are many parodies of such phrases. A great poet is first a voracious reader. If you intend to get serious about writing poetry, start collecting and reading books of poems. Nobody else will tell you about the territory, you must explore it yourself.

x. Don't Wait: Poets Often Wait Too Long Before Publishing

Publishing should not be considered an end, or only for the accomplished poet. It should be seen as an integral part of every poet's development. Publish as soon as you can. Editors will provide valuable insights into subtle problems with the writing, and tips on where to go next. Following the exercises in a college textbook is a valuable pursuit for a developing poet. A class is even better. If you see yourself as an experienced poet, you can still take a class. The experienced poet is always a new learner; and every new learner can learn more by teaching his ideas to others. After you have learned from a few editors it may be time to try some of the editors who previously rejected your work.

xi. Come On In: The Water's Fine

The division is not only between good and bad poets but between active growing ones and static frozen ones. Someone perceived as a great poet one year can be seen as badly dated in just a few years if he does not grow in his work. A really great poet is timeless. It is not necessary to be able to read the future; just to say something that is important to you. You do not need to worry about whether the future will agree. Limericks are as popular as Shakespeare. Who really knows whether Green Eggs and Ham will last as long as Jabberwocky or even longer? Every classic poem was once new and untested just like all your unwritten and unpublished poems.

Article written by Don J. Carlson. All Rights Reserved

For more information, please contact: Don J. Carlson

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