Friday, March 2, 2012

Honey From My Failures

At night I lie awake and think of the bees. I see them in my brain, in my belly, in my heart. Scurrying around and working their magic, gathering tiny bits of things we can't see, and together, working them over time into miraculous honey. I feel I am pregnant with bees. Like anyone on a new endeavor,a couple awaiting a baby, an artist collecting new inspiration, I am softer. Vulnerable in sweet places. I am brought easily to tears.

In November, I began to dream of the bees because they felt like a thing that could be done. Challenging, yes, but not an endeavor that relied on elusive approval. I was so frustrated, in November. So sure that all my work was for naught. I was made crazy by the nature of the publishing industry--that one may produce work, may even produce very good work for years and years, but all of that matters for nothing if you can't charm an agent. If you don't bewitch a publisher. If they don't look at you and see dollar signs, your work is rated not worthy.

I was drawn to the bees because they don't rate one's worth.

They don't question why, these girls. They emerge from their cells and minutes after their birth, get to work. They know exactly what to do, they never question their own instincts and in obeying them, accomplish marvelous feats. They labor tirelessly, these summer bees who will live just four weeks or so. They produce one-twelfth of one teaspoon of honey, and eventually they fly away to die. All of this to ensure the survival of future generations that they will never see.

I knew I had to help the bees. I knew somehow they would heal me.

And now this: after deciding to keep the bees, I realized that I could not place my happiness is other people's hands.

Nor stand around, hoping for approval. Toss my hair at agents, do my dance for publishers, no thank you. It made me miserable. It negated all the joy that came from the writing itself.

The delight at the prospect of keeping the bees showed me the delight in the possibility of self-publishing my book.

And so, I decided to do just that.

Because what matters is not approval, or attention, or money, or fame, but creating something and sharing it with others. What matters is connection.

Making this decision has set me free. I don't spend my days worrying what other people think. I let go of my ridiculous need to be the best at something, to prove myself to others. I sit down and write and it is what it was meant to be: a interaction between myself and a collective unconscious, a divine creator, a celebration of pure joy.

(You know, when writing goes well it goes very, very well and when it goes badly, we watch Oprah).

Life is sweet. The bees taught me this.

All I taste is honey.


I have so many links to share today. Please take what you like and leave what you don't.

1)The title of this post was taken from the gorgeous poem by Antonio Machado.

2) Again, Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk on creativity. I think this is invaluable to artists of any persuasion. And I cry every time I watch it.

3) Here is a link to the Beyond Pesticides website. These folks are working very hard to ban things that harm us and the bees. The U.S. still allows the use of many pesticides that have been banned in other countries (who have since seen their bee numbers increase). Some of these pesticides are even banned in the countries that make them and sell them to us. The pesticides still exist because corporations make billions off of them every year. Here you can sign a petition asking the EPA to ban the bee-killing clothiaidin.

4) This excerpt from Dan Savage on This American Life really moved me this week. In it, Dan describes being raised by his very Catholic mother, and his complex relationship with the church as an adult. The talk is very funny, and very touching. It was an excellent piece. (And it includes a good (and good natured)Lutheran joke, for all my Lutheran readers)

5) I am so excited about Miss Representation, a film that has finally taken all the frustrations with media representations of girls and women that I tend to grow inarticulate and frustrated over, and worked them eloquently into a movie that looks both educating and change-inspiring.


  1. I love it, Bea. Go, make your honey.

  2. I would read any book written by you, regardless of its means of publication. I would read a book written by you if it were written on the backs of napkins and stuffed in my purse.
    The bees are beautiful and the healing properties of honey have been overlooked for far too long.

  3. As if you couldn't get any you will have bees. That's amazing and I feel like it's so YOU. I can't wait to watch your progress.

  4. Good Luck with the bees. I hope they thrive, and if they don't, be patient and try again. It sounds like a tricky game these days, but a worthwhile and provident and good thing. No matter you are our Queen B.


  5. Her talk reminded me of this:

    The award-winning ad executive Hal Riney once said, “The frightening and most difficult thing about being what somebody calls a ‘creative person’ is that you have absolutely no idea where any of your thoughts come from really. And, especially, you don’t have any idea about where they’re gonna come from tomorrow.”


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