The word polish means to make something smooth and shiny, like leather shoes So what does it mean to polish your writing?
Does it mean to go through your piece and get rid of minor errors? Or does it mean to improve or perfect? To me it means go over your writing and make sure that it all makes sense. This differs from editing in my mind, which refers more to going over your piece for minor errors in punctuation or grammar.
I am currently writing a long narrative poem, about the drowning earth, interspersed with haiku. There’s a lot to follow. I do a draft and then read it over once, revising as I go. It’s not yet polishing, which I do at the end.
My most recent collection of poetry that I published was a different process. It was a highly emotional collection about the death of my partner to Alzheimer’s. It was painful to write, and I just got it out on paper periodically over a number of years. I then polished it at the end. Take a look:
Practice makes perfect. The more you write, the better you become at it. It’s just like an athlete working out to keep in shape. With practice, over time, you are able to write faster, more clearly, in less time. New writers have trouble getting started, but experienced writers sit down and write everyday. Even if you don’t use what you wrote today, it will lead to something better tomorrow.
Another misconception is that you have to be “inspired” to write. Writing is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. You have to put it the work. If you waited for inspiration to come, you’d be waiting forever to begin writing. Start writing and inspiration will follow.
My latest book is a collection of poems about my experiences with my partner who died in his sixties of Alzheimer’s Disease. It was ten years following his death that I finally got the collection together, but I persisted and here it is:
So you have just had a poem published in a good journal or even had a book manuscript accepted by a publisher. You feel you have accomplished something, and you should. But now you have to read your poetry to an audience. If you’re published, you need to get your work out into the world. This is not my favorite activity either. I just finished a reading this week with seven other poets, and felt my inadequacies.
Poetry is one of the hardest genres to read aloud. Every poem has its own rhythm, can contain rhyme, and often uses fragments or phrases to form lines. This is drastically different from the complete sentences which we are all used to. Figuring out how to read a line of poetry is unique from interpreting how to read a line of prose. If you don’t read well, you’ll often lose people in your audience.
I do know that people who have done many readings get better at it. It’s a simple act of “practice makes perfect.” I’m on my second collection of poetry and I know that reading your poetry aloud will elicit interest. I’ve had people listen to me read and buy my book. I’ve also read on the radio, and this also elicits interest. My recently published book, Touch My Head Softly, can be viewed here:
When I taught writing, I always had my students to a rough draft before the actual paper. A rough draft should include a clear direction in your paper. When you are required to submit a rough draft, it doesn’t need to be perfect, but it should be complete. That means, you shouldn’t be missing any of the major parts of the paper.
You should begin with a draft. Write a draft and then walk away and return again. Your second and third draft will probably be better.
When I wrote my recent poetry collection, Touch My Head Softly (Finishing Line Press, 2021,) I didn’t have a draft. The poems came slowly through the years. If I did have the rough draft of what I wanted the collection to look like, it would have gone much more quickly. It was five years in the making.
For me, writing is both. I have been writing since I was eight years old and can’t seem to stop. But I’ve also published three books, derived income from my publishing, which in some circles would make me a professional writer. You just have to write to make it work. It doesn’t have to be brilliant or inspired, it just has to be. You keep going.
You might do many other things besides writing to support yourself, but you still write through it. Stephen King was a high school English teacher. During this time, he wrote his first novel, Tabitha. He kept going despite his busy job.
You are the only one capable of writing your story. It is unique. It belongs to you. Even if you find similarities in the work of other authors who you read, your story is still your story.
I wrote a book of poems about my experiences with my partner dying of Alzheimer’s Disease in his sixties. I even donated part of the proceeds from the book to the Alzheimer’s Association to find a cure.