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The Unpredictability of a Writer’s Process

I write for different reasons. I write to guide practices, inspire, solve problems, and I write to share writing. Right now, it’s important for me to read, listen, and write with three purposes in mind. 

Writing to remind.

Writing to remember. 

Writing to reflect. 

Witnessing turmoil matched with passionate messages of love and hope I have recognized, that for me, I want to remain in this moment. I want to write so I may remind, remember, and reflect on my part in lifting the passionate messages forward. I didn’t go into this post knowing where my process would take me and as I struggled with the writing, my process was unpredictable. 

On June 7 at  5:30 a.m. I knew I had to just start. I had to start and the only way I knew I could start was to write a poem, so I did. 


The current is ever-changing. 
With it, 
what is brought,
what is taken?
A back and forth decree.
As a coastline once told me,
“It took bits of me.
Just as my shallow surface grew,
it weathered.
One day,
I realized
I was looking upon a cliff.
A part of me once buried in sediment.
Now gazed on by my shallowed
water floor. 
To hear, 
and see, 
and be 
a place of beauty,
to be stood upon.”

Later that morning I asked myself three questions. 

Am I doing enough?

Will I do enough?

Will I know how to do more?

The answer was a resounding no. I will never be doing enough and I cannot rely on hope to show me where my shortfalls are or what I should do next. However, in listening, reading, and watching so many colleagues across these past few weeks, I am inspired to look upon the cliffs and seek all answers. So, I decided to write a narrative next. It was a story from my childhood that for some reason was swirling around and I just had to write it down. 

As a child, I once found myself lost in the Sears Department store. I was with my family as we cut through the men’s department. Where were we going? I did not know. 

I saw something I had never seen. A rack of little clip-on ties for boys. I stopped to look. So many colors, designs, textures. I grabbed a large handful and dozens of ties fell to the floor. I felt my heart jump into my throat. I had made a mess. I had only been curious. Betsy, clean up your mess, rippled through my internal thoughts. I looked up, where is everyone? 

I was taught to clean up my messes, but I had to hurry. I wasn’t sure where to begin. Picking up all the ties at once didn’t work. Each one had a small plastic hook that was supposed to rest on a flimsy barely balanced metal bar. I began to realize I had to replace each tie, one at a time. A mess that took seconds would take longer to clean up. My heart continued to race as I began to realize I was alone, with a mess, and likely in trouble. The relief was short once the ties were replaced. Looking in all directions I could only see racks of clothes. No people. Walking in circles, I looked for the helpers eventually walking toward a desk. Tears streaming down my face I began, “I…I…I’m lost.”

Sympathetic eyes met mine as my head turned to my left to see a commotion coming toward me. 

Running in relief, my mom, grandmother, sister, and father were there. They encircled me with no worry about my mistake, or my mess. Just relief I was okay and found. My tears dried quickly.

I remind myself with this poem, remember with this story, and reflect on this process for a reason today. Recently I, like most of you, read and listened to Cornelius Minor’s interview with co-author Lanny Ball. You may have also read Melanie Meehan’s recent post titled, Look Harder, Be Braver, and Speak Louder: My Challenge to Myself

Each of these posts was thought-provoking for me as a reader because I, also like many, struggle to find my role within the current very visible inequities we are surrounded by. Though there were many bits to take away, what I felt threaded the path toward challenging ourselves as citizens, and growing ourselves as educators, was listening. 

When asked about close listening, Cornelius Minor said, “We just need to be willing to hear the different ways kids are speaking.” 

Words Melanie Meehan recently consumed were, “you can’t bring more than you have, but you can bring all that you have,” from mentor Deacon Art Miller. 

It is statements like these, among words from Jason Reynolds, Rachel Cargle, Jacqueline Woodson, and many more that have me reflecting on my part. What is my part in the changing waves of understanding our world? My part is to write. 

I must write to remind, remember, and reflect. 

As I wrestled with how this post would take shape I reached out to my colleague Melanie Meehan. Talking through my struggle as writers do, helped me to see that I was merely going through my process.

Something I know from living through trauma is the pain eases. When my family lost our home to a fire in the dead of night, it was a moment. The moment stretched, and as it stretched, the memories eased, and the healing took over. However, right now, this trauma is not mine. I don’t want these moments to ease for me, instead, I want to remind, remember, and reflect. I must write to do this so that the discomfort and my promise to the world does not become lost in what could become moments of privileged ease.

I will never have all the understanding and perhaps that is as important to know as the learning that is currently in my path. I will never know enough. I will make messes, potentially messes that will take time to clean up. I might get lost in a time when it feels like there is no time to be lost. But if I must pick up each piece of understanding one at a time, listen to what I can bring, and hear the different ways people are speaking to me, I will be heading in a direction of progress. 

I am not new to recognizing injustice in the world, but my eyes are open and I will work to ensure that my responses reflect this.

4 thoughts on “The Unpredictability of a Writer’s Process

  1. Betsy – thank you for this – so many lines here to remember. I was just writing this morning about “Am I doing enough?” Where do I fit into this movement and change? The poem is helpful to hold an image of our current place in time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Betsy, thank you for this! I am particularly moved by your poem, the image of a coastline – that we might all be like a coastline … especially we “white allies” …weathering, listening, learning, reminding, remembering, reflecting…imagine, over time, we will create a beautiful cliff…love this, thank you. Let’s move forward, together.


  3. Betsy, it is always a welcome reminder that no matter how experienced or practiced at something we are, we always work through the process in a different ways when circumstances change. Your words this week are so powerful, and I am grateful for them!


  4. Besty, I think writing makes us vulnerable and by being vulnerable, we are open to the emotions and change that come from reflection. Thanks for sharing your vulnerable, yet brave self here.


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