To Tend One’s Garden by Hannah Bockoven
This is a question I ask myself sometimes; What is my yield? If you are interested in writing, it is a helpful question. What do I have to say and what do I have to offer?
I ask this often when I write, but it wasn’t always my habit. Maybe this is typical of many who write, but in high school, I thought that the writers of the world were those who wrote novels, which I was determined to do. On our old family computer, which likely exists in a landfill now, there is a graveyard of documents containing 50,000 words “novels”, which were vapid and awful, and I, tragically, felt they were so clever.
Before I had taken Short Story Writing my first year of Community College, I had always thought that short stories were simply cheap fiction. I laugh at this assessment now, and luckily this course swiftly changed my mind. Short stories give you a lot less room to hide; you must say something, and it must be concise and well crafted. I became excited at the idea of creating something beautiful in a fall smaller space.
I took this class in the summer, and it was a special thing to think and write and get feedback from my fellow anonymous dessert dwellers. Since it was all online, our Professor’s feedback took the form of sound files she sent us. I would save these until the very end of the day, heart racing as I went into my room with my laptop, shut the door behind me, and put my headphones in to listen.
Her advice was always excellent and fair. She would go over the strengths and weaknesses of the piece in a way that was both critical and encouraging in the same breath, which I really admired about her. On one particular evening, though, she at some point paused, and I panicked a little. The audio file cracked as she sighed, and spoke words that I can still almost hear, years later. You’re a writer, Hannah. You really do tell stories, and I hope you keep going. Your view of the world is honest but generous, and it always gives me something; a memorable moment or something to walk away with. Well done.
My heart continued to race for half an hour. I listened to the file again and turned up the volume. It was the first time someone had said something like this to me, and her words struck me. Still, I came to and realized producing something polished and of significance would still take a lot of work. It remains, though, a very validating experience for me.
My yield is not as abundant as some. I often suspect I have no novels inside of me, no philosophical poetry, and only a little in the way of CNF, critical essays, and short stories. I enjoy it, though, and there is something remarkable about the struggle of finding your way into the conversations you are interested in having.
I’ve realized that one doesn’t always need to be profound in order to write. He only needs to take care of the garden that is his own writing and thoughts, to be enjoyed by himself and others, and maybe that is the point. So, I will keep tending to my garden and you may stop by any time.
Hannah Bockoven is a Bethany alum who majored in English and minored in Sociology. She works at Bethany as the International Student Activity Coordinator and enjoys babysitting, books, and good conversation. She plans to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing.