Shelley Widhalm

The (Birds), the Bees and the Writers

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Processes on March 16, 2014 at 11:00 am

What goes on in a typical honeybee hive can give a glimpse into what we do as writers.
Honeybees communicate with each other by moving in patterns, doing something called the waggle dance.

One of their moves is the figure 8 to communicate if flowers are far away and in a circle if the flowers are close.

Writers need to waggle dance with words to get out of their comfortable patterns and discover new connections, analogies and descriptions. Poets, in particular, play with the dictionary and thesaurus and engage in word games to expand how they normally use language.

The typical honeybee hive has the very precise number of 4,764 bees and three types of bees, the workers, drones and one queen.

Worker bees, which are female, do most of the work, hence their name. They build, clean and guard the hive, take care of the queen, feed all of the bees in the hive, care for the young bees, collect pollen and nectar from flowers as food for the hive, and make honey for food.

They travel to about 50 to 100 flowers each time they make a trip out of the hive and, with the other bees in the hive, travel up to 55,000 miles to make one pound of honey.

Writers have to travel (even if it’s just in their hometown), experience and live to gather enough observations to be able to write a few sentences and stories. Mastery takes thousands of hours of practice and layers and different types of work, from reading, freewriting, writing, editing and learning from other writers.

Being good at something, even having a talent as a starter, doesn’t instantaneously result in producing great work.

Writers, like the worker bees caring for the young, need to care for their words, their writing and what they experience, feeding it all with time, energy and imagination.

Honeybees have glands on their stomachs that make beeswax. They work together to shape the wax into connected hexagons to make the comb. They transfer the honey into the hexagons, topping each one with a wax cap to seal every full cell. They fan their wings in the hive, which causes evaporation and reduces the water content in honey and raises the sugar intensity.

Bees work together to make the comb and to fill each hexagon with honey, just as writers have to fill up each element of their story with their best effort in plot and character development, setting, dialogue, voice and description. Otherwise, the storytelling is far from sweet but half-full of rotten honey.

Drones mate with the queen but are kicked out of the hive when the weather turns cold.
The queen’s job is to lays eggs, up to 1,500 in a day, and she eats a special food called royal jelly.

When writers finish a writing project, they don’t get kicked out but have to go back into the story, because now there’s all that editing. When they’re done, they’ll have their royal jelly from the creativity, time, imagination and experience filling the hexagons of their love of this art and craft.

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