The Writing Bug

photo 4 (2)I had a great time at Soulfood last night. My daughter Pearl invited a couple of friends,  one of whom has taken creative writing classes. With a little nudging, and my notebook, all three scribbled some quick lines and read on the Open Mike. Pearl’s spontaneous poem was about her music, and my friend Janet asked if she would sing — so we were treated to that, too. An awesome evening.

Jennifer Bullis’s poetry leapt off the page. If I haven’t recommended her book, Impossible Lessons to you before, I want to be sure to do so now. The goddess rules!

Before the reading, and at intermission, Jennifer and I talked about animals, kids, and teaching (she taught at Whatcom Community College for 14 years; I’ve taught about that long at Everett Community College). And we talked about writing. We talked about how, even for an established writer, writing every day is harder than one might expect. We let other things get in the way. My sister calls about my mom and I spend four hours calling doctors and Assisted Living residences setting up appointments and tours. My husband asks for help with a carpentry project. A daughter wants company at a movie. Errands, housework, laundry.

It must be guilt that keeps me from setting better boundaries. Writing is such a guilty pleasure after all and I can’t–not really–claim to be doing it for anyone but myself. Can I?

And then there are the other distractions–books to read or websites to investigate. These look like guilty pleasures in themselves. I can pursue them in my writing space, after all, and no one is the wiser. No one except me.

I was hugely surprised that my daughter and her friends wrote poems and read them on the Open Mike. And then I wasn’t surprised. There’s something so hugely satisfying about writing, and it isn’t just for oneself. It’s an unselfish act. It’s a gift to the universe. People make decisions about how to make money–often at the risk and expense of others–every day, every minute of every day. What if we spent a few minutes making poems instead?

Fifteen minutes, Bethany. Start with a single concrete image on the page. An hourglass, a stone horse, a thimble, a matyroushka doll. A fig. See what happens. See if you can push it a little farther, the image and the time. Go!


8 replies
  1. Carolynne Harris
    Carolynne Harris says:

    On NPR on the way to church today a poet said, one writes about minuteia – so how do I spell that word? The daily things like going to the grocery store, brushing your teeth, but you know that and can even spell the M word. Good blog. I will look up Impossible Lessons.

  2. Jennifer Bullis
    Jennifer Bullis says:

    Bethany, thank YOU for a wonderful evening of poetry and conversation, and for your very kind words here.

    May I please reblog your post? Or at least this fabulous photo of you that Pearl captured?

    Your “15 minutes” mantra is a constant, constructive reminder to me. Please never stop saying it.

  3. cherielanglois
    cherielanglois says:

    Thanks for a wonderful blog, Bethany. This really resonated with me for some reason. I’m guilty of letting too many things derail my writing, and guiltier still of feeling guilty about taking the time to write (rather than do “real work”), even during those times when I’ve been working on multiple magazine assignments and bringing in some decent money. The guilt is worse now that I’m taking a freelancing break (mostly) to work on a novel…


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