Campaign for…poetry?


Last year I had the opportunity to help lead a grass-roots political effort. The campaign for a local sales tax measure came together beautifully. The purpose was clear; events dictated the brief timeline; and more than 100 volunteers labored three months toward a May election. The result: 96 percent of voters supported our cause.

My husband worked in the campaign arena for several years—which means I also got to participate—and this was the most lopsided campaign we’d seen. A “stuff and stamp” mailing party ended in 45 minutes because 75 people showed up to label 3,000 pieces of mail.

Over the last year, I’ve savored the singularity of that undertaking—such energy and enthusiasm for an all-volunteer effort—and have come to realize that a “campaign” mindset is a good way to accomplish things beyond the ballot box.

We all have personal goals, but they can be amorphous, semi-formed. Nothing says do-or-die like a “campaign” mindset, several reasons:

1. There is a clear objective. You don’t put your heart and soul into an election effort to come up short. The goal is to win. Unlike some political efforts, hopefully your personal goals are achievable.

The rules of the ground game—Electoral College, majority rules, plurality—dictate strategy and define success, so you plan, allocate resources, and execute accordingly.

This how I am approaching my New Year’s resolution of writing 24 poems in 2015. Since not everything I work on will be publishable, I must aim for more than two per month, just like presidential candidates work like mad to win not just Ohio and Florida, but Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Virginia as well. If I get two publishable works per month from my efforts, that’s success.

2. Time constrained. In American politics, the second Tuesday of November every fourth year is D-Day. Prospective presidential candidates take that date (or should) and work backwards over years, building organizations and strategies toward it.

My husband and I are tackling our debt this way. While there’s no referendum on our campaign’s effectiveness, we established our own deadline. To do this, we added up our various obligations and calculated the soonest possible date they could be dispensed with assuming we made extra payments. That’s January 2019, student loans, home, and all.

We do a monthly countdown on our office wall: T-minus 46 months and counting. That impending psychological high keeps us motivated to forgo needless dinners out and other indulgences.

3. The elimination of distractions. For the political campaign referenced above, we basically assured the beneficiaries that no paid consultants would be needed. Volunteers could do it all.

We had three months and, fortunately, plenty of help. But that virtual guarantee of victory meant we could not veer off into low-value activities, such as trying to recruit new voters and holding multiple public rallies. Election history teaches that you need to persuade regular voters to your side.

On the non-campaign front, this is why I’m such a big fan of having achievable written plans, both in business and in life. In my day job as a marketing director, every year in the fall I write the next year’s plan. So I spend each year just following the plan.

That doesn’t mean we can’t add, subtract, or modify, but the activities of most days, weeks, and months are laid out so there is a continuous drip of information to key audiences.

Each of us has causes and perhaps even candidates we are willing to work for. Achieving our dreams and goals without doubt should fall into that realm, and the most important of those should be worth campaigning for.


© Beth Henary Watson 2015