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by Hedgebrook Guest

I sometimes feel guilty when I wash dishes. I live and work in a rural town in a developing country in Central Asia, and there are people living near me who often struggle to feed their families. Wouldn’t it be better to always have a person who needs money wash my dishes, and I could be free to do something else such as writing? Work hours here are long: there is much need, and accomplishing tasks takes extra time. [We say: if it would take two weeks at home, it will take two months here.] I know that the efforts of my colleagues and I have real impact in the lives of our neighbors, so my work is meaningful. Sadly, writing often takes a back seat to donor deadlines, community projects, and trying to time laundry when both water and electricity are available.

I spent a number of months in 2013 in the USA for both work and personal reasons. I had heard of Hedgebrook years back – and found VORTEXT on the website as I was planning 2013. Excitement! The dates for the weekend event fit my schedule. Staff from Hedgebrook and the Whidbey Institute welcomed us warmly and encouraged us. The published writers who gave keynotes and led workshops invited us to explore our unique creative gifts and assured us we weren’t (too) crazy for wanting to express ourselves. That weekend helped me clarify that a unique aspect of my creative voice is writing for the stage – plays, maybe musicals. I love live theater – even a good film viewed at the theater doesn’t have the special spark that comes from the communal and interactive imagination of actors and audience. Leaving VORTEXT, I knew the play idea that I wanted to develop…

A few months passed as I finished my work and “rest” period in the US. Once back overseas, projects and daily life filled my weeks leaving little for anything else. But in the summer of 2014, life slowed down. It was during the “forty hottest days of summer” (a local expression). Many colleagues were on vacation, so project work was less demanding. For at least six weeks, I managed a weekly creative day. Using a tool I learned during Elizabeth George’s workshop at VORTEXT, I began to bring alive the five characters of the play. She had given us a prompt sheet to help define characters – and that helped me start and then continue when I became stuck. I flowed from that to begin to shape the dramatic arch of the play, and to note ideas for scenes and random lines of possible dialogue.

After this burst of energy, fall came with a rush of work, followed by a brief trip to the US. Three months into 2015, I haven’t written creatively (annual reports for donors don’t count) except for part of a prayerful poem and a creative photo caption poemlet in local language. One of my on-going sorrows is the lack of time, energy, and encouragement to express myself creatively. To not become depressed, I think “summer is coming” – and maybe next year I can fit VORTEXT (or a master class) into my schedule as a gift to myself.


About the Author:

Jonna S. Reeder Blog PostJonna S. Reeder is a regional director for community development for an international relief and development organization. In addition to writing, she enjoys hiking, white-water rafting, knitting, music, and wearing blue. Jonna is not embarrassed that she spent enough time studying to earn four college degrees during three different college stints. Her parents (both retired) and sister (a public health research) live in Oregon, her home state.







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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

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