Friday Speak Out!: What’s Hidden in Your Inventory?

Friday, July 10, 2020
by Carole Mertz

I’m building on Sue Edwards’s and Nicole Pyle’s recent blogs about taking inventory. For a poet it’s slightly different than for a prose writer, though there are parallels. When I do inventory, I let myself dwell on the accomplishments and I compare them with accomplishments of prior writing periods. For example, I may notice during these past six weeks I’ve not written and completed any “new” poems, but I’ve submitted to more than X number of journals. Or I’ll notice my work shifted heavily from creating new poems to reviewing poetry collections and sending out those reviews. 

 When unexpected events occur, I inject into my inventory how that event affected my normal output. I ask myself, was that event beneficial or an interruption? I also ask, which was more important, in hindsight, attending to the event, or maintaining my normal or usual output of new material? Sometimes both the event and new output coincide. 

 As an “event” I might be referring to an editor of a journal asking me to review a file of 12 book reviews and to select the two that best meet the journal’s theme or requirements. Or he might ask me to indicate the two that need the least editing and revision. 

 Or an event might be the sudden unexpected invitation to judge a contest. Or it might be the approaching deadline for making “Best of the Net” selections for a journal with which I’m affiliated. 

Sometimes a poet friend will ask for a review of his or her book, or a colleague will request an interview. Sometimes these out-of-routine events become stimuli for new writing. As ever, it’s up to the individual to establish what (s)he chooses as priorities. 

I believe everything we do as writers can be harnessed to good use. It’s important to realize that so-called unproductive periods may have hidden within them new challenges or the generation of new ideas and new composition. 

 I sense much of a writer’s work takes place at an unconscious level. Therefore it’s important to acknowledge, when taking inventory, that even though outwardly measurable accomplishments may seem to be waning, more subtle growth may be taking place. 

 * * *
Carole Mertz writes craft essays for Wow! Women on Writing, Working Writer and for blog sites. She is the author of the chapbook Toward a Peeping Sunrise (at Prolific Press) and the poetry collection Color and Line (forthcoming with Kelsay Books). Carole resides with her husband in Parma, Ohio where she teaches classical music while also continuing to study various poetic forms.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Carole--I especially appreciate the last paragraph in your post. Sometimes, even though there might not be any outward signs of writing progress, a paradigm shift is happening.

Good luck with your future writing projects, and thanks for doing this post.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Carole: You are a good literary citizen--you review friend's books, interview them--and that's such an important part of being a writer. :)

Your inventory system is fascinating! I never thought of recording how events have affected my productivity. I'm curious, has the pandemic changed your output? I've been asking everyone because there are definitely two different camps--writers who are extremely productive and those who find it hard during this time. I fall into the latter, but I'm finally getting back into my groove.

I agree that a lot of work takes place subconsciously. Even when I'm not writing, I'm gathering information and I'm thinking about writing, jotting down notes, listening to writing podcasts, filtering life.

Margo Dill said...

Hi Carole:
I was excited to see your byline on this post! I totally agree. I try to count "writing" as anything that has to do with my writing or editing career and that includes many of the things you mentioned here. I know I become a better writer every time I read an amazing book or I help someone make theirs better. I learn while I'm doing. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

Carole Mertz said...

Margo, your supportive post is a boost to me. Thank you.

Angelo, thank you for commenting about my literary citizenship (smile). My number of accepted submissions is higher than those of a parallel time last year. (Jan. to June, 27 vs. 19) However, certain things matter to me more than others. For ex., getting a review accepted at a large Indian journal (The Bangalore Review) mattered a lot to me, as did the acceptance at Kelsay Books for my next book, a full-length poetry collection. (Also, being asked to write reviews, as opposed to searching books I want to review, has added weight.)

Sioux, thanks for your kind comment. I'm much older than you fine writers, editors, and publishers. I'm beginning to analyze my work, and my enjoyment of the work, in newer ways than when I first began writing, in 2008. However, I still try to make numerically measurable goals work for me. Last year my goal was to read 100 books. I reached it. But this year during the pandemic, I did not allow much reading, and no escapist reading; I made myself stick to the "necessaries," i.e. the work editors were expecting from me. I also increased interviewing, which I hadn't done previously.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Carole, I so agree with the statement in your essay, that everything we do as writers can be harnessed to good use. Even though it may seem as if we are stagnant and not moving forward and showing calculable accomplishments, there is still growth.

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