Creative Writing at the Graduate Level
Tips for staying organized
Having a creative practice can be incredibly rewarding. It can also feel frustrating at times. If you are stalled or stuck or just not quite tapping into your creative "flow."
- Keep a writer's notebook with you at all times. Writing, like most creative practices, will become easier the more you do it. It also can be weirdly ephemeral. But the more you write down your ideas or things that spark your inspiration, the more frequently this will happen to you. A lot of writing is also observing. Take note of things as they occur throughout your day. The more you keep track of things, the more you will have to look back when you are looking for inspiration or a new idea for a project.
- Develop a consistent way to name files, track drafts, and save documents. Name all your creative pieces by title even if it is just a class exercise. If you have multiple drafts of the same document number them 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. OR by date last edited after the title. i.e. Fogland Diaries 4.15.22. Consistent naming will make it easier to sort your files by date or name, so you can find things and not lose work. Editing is important as a writer, but sometimes you may want to revisit other drafts. One of the most liberating editing tools is knowing you can play and experiment, and then always go back to review the original later.
- Find your own writing rhythm and protect that time. We have all read articles that say write first thing in the morning. Write everyday. Have a writing routine. While a writing routine is important, keep in mind, it should be for when you work best. Personally, I work best late at night, and a 6 am writing routine for me is torture. Figure out what time YOU work best, and HOW you work best. For me short stints are not productive. It takes me a long time to get into what I'm doing, once I'm in, I can be incredibly productive working uninterrupted for 4 - 5 hours in deep-focus. So for me, I like to block off one day a week when I can do this (usually on Sunday because that's when I have time and can say no to other obligations.) That's not to say, if you love 20 minute stints everyday at 6 am, great! Do what works for you. But if not, give yourself permission to figure out when and how you are productive, and make time for that.
Making connections and networking
- The writing world is a lot smaller than you think. The more people you know, the more you will know what's going on, where readings are happening, what's new and exciting in the creative writing world.
- Look for events at your local bookstores.
- Check out literary festivals and what's happening.
- Attend a workshop or open mic session.
- Don't be afraid to talk to people! Most authors are happy you like their work. Never be too shy to say something to someone you really admire. You might be pleasantly surprised where the conversation ends up.
- Be authentic and yourself and trust in your worth.
- The big question of how to publish? Unfortunately, there is no magic answer to help you publish fast. Sometimes people will get lucky and be approached by someone who wants to publish your work. This is wonderful and magical, but a lot of the time, your first publications will take a lot of time and work. Don't get discouraged! Here are some tips to get you started on how to navigate the publishing world.
- Figure out what journals you want to submit to. There are hundreds of journals out there. Knowing which is which will take time. Every journal will ask you to submit work that knows their particular aesthetic. But what does that mean exactly? The more you read, the more you will develop an understanding of different styles and what different aesthetics in creative writing mean.
- Attend a writing conference and get a feel for what publishers and journals are out there. AWP (Associated Writer and Writing Programs) is the big major conference. It can be expensive and overwhelming, but you will also learn a lot about what's out there.
- Make a spreadsheet and track your submissions. I know this doesn't sound fun, but due to the number of platforms out there, how often information changes for submission periods, how often things go on hiatus, the numerous ways places want you to submit (by email, by regular mail, through Submittable, through SubmissionMaster), and how many things you will need to submit before you get acceptances, I recommend developing a spreadsheet that list all this information need in one place.
- Check out these websites (if you haven't already) that catalog publication information.
- Submittable. Free to access. You probably already have an account. If you don't, sign-up is free. Discovery allows you to search for publications that are currently accepting submissions.
- ChillSubs. The newest and hippest platform out there. Launched in 2022. The interface is user friendly, and search features are clean and easy to use. It has a tracking tool where you can create entries for everything you have submitted, and monthly calendar overview of deadlines. Both free and paid subscription option.
- NewPages.com. Free to access. It lists journals by title, and there is also a section on contests. When things are open for submissions, you will have to do some digging. If you are unfamiliar with what journals are out there and which are established, new, or up-and-coming, NewPages gives you a nice overview of what's what.
- DuoTrope. Free trial for 2 weeks then $5 monthly subscription. You can sort information by deadlines and also look for things like acceptance rates, what journals pay, what has a submission fee or not, how long response time is.