Kate Baughman, Senior Writer

Great Writing is Work

My most vivid childhood memory is sitting on my grandmother’s lap dictating adventure stories as she typed. I’ve called myself a writer, (though with some degree of conviction) since I was first paid to do it in college. My naivete convinced me that once I landed a job writing, called myself a writer, I would feel like a writer. That I could churn out beautiful sentences, creative turns of phrase, like clockwork.

I’ve since learned this: great writing requires work. You can add tools to your toolbox, but it is still work. It demands continual seeking. New, different, elsewhere. Like a running creek, writing committed to a routine, a path, will lessen in resistance and flow more easily. But it will also end in the same pool of language. Making space and time for divergent thinking is a critical part of my continued development as a writer, as a creative thinker.

In a business where our time is the commodity, efficiency and repeatable systems are rewarded. Without intentionality, creative, divergent thinking has little space. A year ago, I took on the challenge of incorporating time for creative thinking into our busy schedules. The task: conduct poetry writing workshops. Everyone welcome. Each week, I introduced a different form of short poem and some prompts. The exercise was successful in breaking my own writing routines. It also turned out to be a powerful team exercise.

Here are some of the poems we wrote.

Future lines on hands
I can’t read
While I write and count

simple is the way
the breathe escapes
until it escapes

blank is full of more
space the pause
aware of nothing

Yellow flowered skirt
on a spring morning.

Write it small and sharp
Coax the truth
bend it to my will

One more bagel, halved
then again
Someone will eat it

All of us, wondrous.
Glorious warriors.

The grinder is still
working after ten years' mornings.
Some things do persist.

bright blue, red with white
stains. a hodge podge of rollers
a chair plethora

first light's light chirp sounds
a beautiful day opens
it closes with rain

It drowns in my ear
Given a name, bubbles up
Screeches up my scalp