This is the untold story about a poet who doesn't like submitting so much that she decides to not read her emails on places to submit for almost a year and finds herself with 771 unread emails, hilarity ensues.
I think last year was my worst year for submitting poems. Yes, I submitted my work, but haphazardly, occasionally, whenever it caught my whim. But mostly, I ignored all Creative Writing Opportunities and literally, my CRWROPPS email folder had 771 UNREAD messages. 771. That's 771 opportunities I ignored.
(By the way, for those of you who don't know, CRWOPPS is listserv run by Allison Joseph that posts call for submissions-and now even academic jobs-for writers and poets. You can sign up on Yahoo by going here-- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CRWROPPS-B/ -- the first list had issues, so it's the CRWROPPS-B list to sign up for... It's a great service to writers, but only when you actually READ the emails - imagine.)
But now back to my story of 771 unread messages...
I'll tell you how it began (as all bad habits do), I became busy and didn't read my CRWOPPS folder and inside were 25 or so unread messages. I told myself I'd find some time to do that, but didn't. A few days later, there 29 then 36 then 43, then the task of reading these emails seemed too big, as it seemed I needed a good chunk of time to read them. But I never took that chunk of time, or any chunk of time and the emails grew and grew...like the person who stores one pizza box in the corner, than another and another, I was my own type of packrat never getting to my now Creative Writing Opportunities mess that was stacking up.
With the fear of not wanting to miss any opportunity, I didn't delete them thinking I'd get to them. I didn't. And the number of unread emails grew -100, 240... By then it had just become a lesson in ignoring, I knew I wasn't going to get to it, but instead of jumping back and just catching up on a little like all good procrastinators, I said no, I'll find time.
Now here we are 8 months later. Yes, I didn't read CRWOPPS from April through December 2008. WTF? I know exactly what I was thinking--I'll get to it. But it never became a priority and because I could still get by without it (submitting to journals only and not anthologies, not submitting to "theme" issues, submitting to places my poet-friends emailed me with notes saying, "I saw this and thought of you..." -thank you, btw). And I did. The path of least resistance.
But looking back as I go through and delete/clean up these unread emails, I see I missed a lot of good opportunities for issues and anthologies I have poems for. Am I bummed? Yes, but I'm not going to kick myself over it (well, maybe a little), what I'm going to start fresh for 2009. I now have 0 unread messages in my CRWOPPS inbox and will not let the dishes stack up in the sink or the pizza boxes pile to the ceiling this year.
My thoughts on all of this--
1) New beginnings do not have to start just in January...I could have easily cleaned out my CRWOPPS box for fall or the beginning of any month. Summary-- You can always start over. Every day is a chance for a new beginning.
2) It's better to do a little (even if it feels like it's nothing) than to do nothing. A little of anything will get you farther any day than a lot of nothing.
3) Figure out why you are avoiding a task. (Or don't figure out, assume you are avoiding a task because it's easier not to do it, seriously, it's that really the reason we avoid tasks? Then do the task anyway.) For me, the convenience and ease of ignoring was worth more to me than the time of having to sort through hundreds of unread emails and the uncomfortableness I knew I'd feel when I saw all the opportunities I missed.
4) Forgive yourself and move on. We all muck up. If we didn't, we wouldn't be interesting people. There are worse crimes in the world than _____________________ (fill in the blank) in my case - "ignoring CRWOPPS for 8 months"). We are imperfect lovable annoying people. We do things that are bad for us even when we know we shouldn't. That's life. It's short, forgive, move on, don't do it again.
My plan so this doesn't happen again? I've added it to my PalmPilot to do list and I have a group of writer/poet friends who will keep me accountable each week to do at least one submission. Most things are easier if you do them in small tasks, so my goal- one submission a week. And if I get more than 25 unread emails, I have one day to read them or delete them, no ignoring them, but I *hope* not to get to that point. Sheesh.
So that's the story of the poet who didn't read her emails.
You may now return to your lives already in progress