Ginger was a slightly neurotic, but lovely, Irish setter. A family pet, she spent her outdoor time in a large fenced pen in the back yard. As a family, we were too busy and too ignorant to keep her busy, but she entertained herself as best she could. One day at the kitchen window doing dishes, I watched her catch and release a butterfly. As a bird-dog breed, her mouth was so soft that the butterfly stuttered away, uninjured. Ginger had no reason to catch that creature. She was bored and there was a bright target. Now that I have more years behind me, I wish I could apologize to her, wish I had spent more time, taken walks and had talks. But as a young mother, I gave my attention to my children and left Ginger to distract herself however she could. Sorry, Ginger, sorry.
As a writer, I often find myself chasing butterflies instead of working. My butterflies, too, escape unharmed because they are sturdier than hers. My butterflies are casual fiction, computer games, lunches out with friends, hours spent in coffee shops. The harm is that these distractions keep me from writing that challenges me. They allow me to indulge in self-doubt, and they yield neither practice nor product. The world, though, has a way of nudging me back to my keyboard.
It did just that yesterday. At a writers’ salon for the Boulder Writers’ Workshop (headed by Lori DeBoer) I listened to a reading and discussion with Susan Cushman, who read an excerpt from Circling Faith, Southern Women on Spirituality. She talked about her path to publication. Others in the group offered advice and asked good questions. We ate wonderful scones and luxuriated in the company of like-minded people. And I won the door prize, a copy of the book.
As Susan signed the book and handed it to me, she smiled and asked if I would review it on Amazon. Oh, sure, I replied, and the writing gremlin in my head kicked my frontal lobes, hard. I wrote plenty of reviews when I was on the staff of The Cafe Review. And reviews have been on my ghostly list of things to get back to, one of these days. Apparently, one of these days will be this week, as soon as I’ve read and thought about Circling Faith. Yes, it’s a little outside my current comfort zone. Faith is a concept, not a poem. But it’s time for this poet to grow up and act like a dedicated writer. So I’ve promised that gremlin to read my comfy mystery stories in the evening, just like any other working professional, and get to work as a writer. As Lori said yesterday, if you believe you are a writer, then you are. So I’d best quit chasing butterflies and go work on that review. I’ll let you know how it goes.