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5 Tips for Being Your Own Best Advocate as a Poet

Poetry can be a complicated and arduous field to get into. There’s the stress of balancing writing with all the other commitments in your schedule, plus the challenges of imposter syndrome and rejection. One of the best ways to navigate these difficulties—as well as fully appreciate all of the art form’s joy—is to make advocating for yourself a regular practice. This means expressing yourself with confidence, honoring your work, and staying true to the writer that you are. But how does that manifest into real, concrete action? Here are some ideas for stepping into the role of self-advocacy and embodying it in your daily life. 


1. Protect your writing time.


Simply put, you aren’t going to create work that fascinates and inspires you unless you carve out regular time for it. That doesn’t mean neglecting friendships, hobbies, or other important components of your life. Instead, it simply means that writing should be a regular part of your routine. Maybe that means free-writing for 30 minutes every morning or before bed, having a writing day at a coffee shop or the library once a week, or setting aside time to revise previous drafts. Try to make this a regular, predetermined date with yourself.


2. Know when it’s time to step away. 


All writing is a constant balance. While anyone committed to poetry life should be writing regularly, try not to let it take over or become overwhelming. For example, say you’ve set aside two hours of writing time on a Saturday morning—set an alarm and stick to those boundaries. If you need a few extra minutes to finish your train of thought or put the final touch on an amazing stanza, go for it, but don’t find yourself still in front of your laptop hours later. Like anyone else, writers need time with friends and family, as well as time to devote to self-care and their other interests, in order to avoid burnout. Plus, working on one draft for too long can result in tunnel vision. Continue on with your day and return with fresh eyes and more energy. 


3. Understand that your work isn’t for everyone—and that’s one of its strengths.


Feeling pressure to get published in a specific journal, be admitted to a certain MFA program, or sign a book deal with a prestigious press? While these goals aren’t always unhealthy, it’s important to note that different literary institutions have varying tastes and aesthetics. For instance, some journals have a focus on experimentative, avant-garde poetry—not exactly a fit for more traditional forms like the sonnet. First, develop a deep understanding of your work and what literary traditions inform it. Then, keep a running list of publications that have published similar writing or some of the writers you look up to. Remember that it’s positive for writing to have a distinct perspective or sense of voice—but this also requires a more curated approach.


4. Make genuine connections with other writers.


One of the best ways to be your own advocate is to ensure that you aren’t totally on your own in the literary world. It’s incredibly important to have a strong relationship with yourself—but in a career that can so often be isolating, it’s equally essential to reach out and find mentors and friends. Try forming a writing workshop, attending readings or spoken word events, or even reading contemporary poetry collections with a group of like-minded friends. 


5. Keep setting realistic, satisfying goals. 


Goals help writers find momentum and purpose. Maybe you want to submit to a different journal every week, attend a literary event near you every month, or commit to a regular writing workshop. Setting these goals and sticking to them whenever possible is the best way to be your own advocate. 


Now that you’re committed to being an active part of your own support system, there’s no limit to how far your work can go. Happy writing!