Hive Mentality of Writing

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new beekeeper

Inspecting my first hive for the first time.

Since my last bee update on my completion of beekeeping school, I acquired two hives and became a North Carolina Certified Beekeeper.

I hesitated to start keeping honey bees, not only due to my life-long phobia of bees, but also because of the time they require. Beekeeping school instilled the fact that you can’t leave the bees in their hive, visit them to harvest honey, and see them again next year. A growing number of pests and diseases, urbanization, and climate change have made it impossible to have a hands-free hive. Not only do you need to inspect the hives, you also need to feed them often or they will starve.

Occasionally I will sign up for things, or make a lifestyle change, or in some other way make a commitment to something “fun.” Perhaps writing-related, but not always. While it will be something I enjoy, a resentment will begin to surface. I start to think: I could be writing.

Before I make any commitments, I now ask myself if how I will spend my time will interfere with my creative time. After beekeeping school, attending a few hive inspections, and spending time with my fantastic mentor, I decided the bees would be something fun that I would not resent, and that could influence my content marketing writing on agriculture and agro-journalism pitches. (Follow along with my hive updates on social media. I use #tsbeez on Instagram and Twitter.)

I also felt like I was in the right place for beekeeping:

  • North Carolina has the largest association of beekeepers with 4,000+ members, according to the NCSBA.
  • North Carolina has more than 10,000 beekeepers; more than any other state, according to my notes from beekeeping school. (Funny, there are rumors that there are more writers in NC than anywhere else too!)
  • The honey bee is North Carolina’s state insect

The practice of keeping bees is ancient, just like the human drive to write. Aside from the extended metaphor, there are other relationships within the hive that inspire character traits, flaws, and even plots for stories and poems.

What I love most about beekeeping is that I am never finished learning. I conduct a hive inspection about every week. I check to see if the queen is still laying, if there are any pests, signs of illness, check food stores, etc. Things are never the same in the hive. Changes can occur drastically in a single day or in just a few minutes. If things aren’t right for the bees, they’ll leave and colonize a new space.

I find many parallels between the hive and a writer’s mind. There is always something new to write about, and our choices for telling a story and revisions can lead us where we never expected. If we don’t like the story or the poem, we leave it behind and start new somewhere else.