I like statistics – one of my favourite radio programmes is More Or Less. I used probability and statistics in the course of my PhD research in the 1980s. So it feels absolutely natural to analyse my writing and publication stats. I’ve done it from about 1990, looking at my output and my publication success rates.
Some of the things that show up are pretty obvious, for instance that my publication peaks occur about a year after the poems are written. Others are less so. Why is it that my output is lower in the year a collection is published? Why are some years more productive than others, and why are some more successful than others in terms of published poems?
The sample size is probably still too low to give statistically relevant answers to these questions, and maybe there are subjective factors operating here, but the data are quite clear. 1998 and 2000 were very good years, and 2013 was my best to date. Over 30 of my 2013 poems have been published, in 20 or so places, including online and printed magazines and other media.
In 2014 I wrote more poems than in any previous year – over 130 – so I’d predict that the publication peak for these poems will be in 2015. My success percentage has risen over the years too, and that’s natural for any writer – if you don’t get better at writing what are you doing? Very few poets go public about their ‘hit rates’, and I’m not going to be the exception that proves the rule. Maybe some day, but not quite yet. All I’m saying is that I’m very happy with it.
But you have to work at it. You have to keep sending out, revising then re-routing. At times it can feel like a treadmill, but I write to communicate. The hope is always that I can reach readers and audiences, to share experiences and ideas, to entertain, and maybe to inspire.