Write with a purpose. Get out the vote.

Some of us are better writers than we are speakers. That includes me.

I meant well when I signed up to help with a Sierra Club Get Out the Vote effort by making phone calls. Before the 30-minute training was over, I realized my time would be better spent writing GOTV letters.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m way better at it.

This is one of those times when writers and other artists do well to examine how they can make the best use of their skills.

Write with a purpose. Get out the vote.

If you can talk and write, know that there’s an urgent need to call people to encourage them to vote and tell them why you think it’s important. Not so good on the phone? Sign up to write letters or texts.

The reasons to vote are many and my guess is you’re aware of them. One that should be especially important to writers right now is the First Amendment.

Whether you write or edit news, nonfiction, sci-fi, fantasy or some other genre – or if you express yourself through photography, visual arts, performing arts – your right to do that is under attack to an extreme we have not seen in the United States in a long time.

Exercise your rights. Write with a purpose. GOTV.

B.J.

On being gregarious when things are precarious

I used to think that I wasn't gregarious
but now that everything seems so precarious
and sometimes even just downright nefarious,
and everyday pleasures grow mostly vicarious,
I see my old thinking as almost hilarious.

Stay well, my friends, and keep your distance.

B.J.

The New Desiderata (2003)

Pulled from the archives…


With apologies to Max Ehrmann
Desideratum = something desired as essential. – Merriam-Webster

Go noisily among the silent and apathetic and remember what virtue there may be in saying what you think. Suffer not the fools of the earth but be on good terms with all others. – Think carefully before you speak, but say your truth plainly and loudly enough for all to hear. – Yes, listen even to the dull and ignorant, especially those who became so through no fault of their own. The purposely ignorant deserve nothing more than your scorn; they have their stories, too, but none that are worth knowing. – Avoid telemarketers, insurance salesmen and yammering pundits; they are vexations to the spirit. – Compare yourself with others only to see how you can grow as a human being; find someone to be like who is worth emulating.

Sunday Goose, Lake McIntosh, Longs Peak, Colorado

For your successes, give due credit to your maker and your parents and your teachers; your failures and mistakes are your own. Forgive yourself and go on. – If you can, devote yourself to meaningful work that you enjoy, but remember that any honest labor is worthwhile if it contributes to the well-being of your family. – Steal from no one; if you want something, be willing to pay for it. – Entertain no silly ideas about the inherent honesty and goodness of the people; many have high ideals, but many hold to no universal truths other than their own consciences and desires. – Be true to your school.

Trust those you love; with others, verify. – Give no one reason to doubt your word or sincerity. In the face of cynicism and reality that is only virtual, your word is still your bond and your good name all you can take with you. – Unless misfortune or disease strikes you down, you will get old; deal with it. – Few things are as bad as you imagine they will be. Think of all who have taken your path before; they managed somehow.

Being here is a gift you have been given and there are strings attached: You are here to help the universe unfold, and others are counting on you. – Live a good life, and do nothing that would displease your mother. – It really can be a beautiful world if you treat it that way. Don’t worry. Be happy.


Found on a PC in East Central Iowa, circa 2003.

© B.J. Smith

On reading to an audience

My legs shook as I stood in front of the others in my 6th grade class to deliver a mandatory speech, every bit as hard as they shook the first time I stepped onto the high diving board at a swimming pool in West Des Moines.

At Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, Iowa

The sheer terror of being in front of an audience somehow evolved – slowly, so slowly – into nervous excitement at the prospect of talking about something I love to do. The debilitating fear of heights is now a healthy respect for the law of gravity that keeps me a safe distance from sheer mountain cliffs and other high places.

Lately I’ve found myself actually going out of my way to get in front of people as an author, to do some readings and even sell and sign a few books. Three more events scheduled! Details sometime soon.

I’m surprised at how much fun it can be.

How about you? Are you comfortable in front of an audience or not so much?

Expecting things to last forever

When I was a boy, I expected things to last forever.

Then I learned that toys and families break, that friends move away and new friends are made, that loves and loved ones are lost and found. That joy and sorrow coexist and that nothing stays the same.

Transient, too, are the wonders of the world, whether shaped by wind and water or formed by our own hands. We mourn their destruction or decay, their ultimate absence from our world.

Then we build again or leave a space to remember, with tears and a smile, what we once had.

Pixabay image