Writing with the Tide

Imagine for a second that your mind is a beach.

You sit with your ideas and your thoughts everyday in the sand.

Sometimes there’s lots of people around you, it’s noisy and you don’t get much time to consider going in the water in front of you at all.

Then at some point, it’s quiet and all you can see is the infinite mass of waves crashing into each other.

It becomes tempting to put your ideas in a raft or a boat and let them float away. See where they might take you.

You imagine the beautiful trip.

On a warm summer day, alone on the shore with the sun shining brightly, you contemplate the docile ripples, the movements of the sea, calm and steady. The fresh air gently blowing on your face while you look into the clear depths below. You think to yourself: What could go wrong?

Putting your ideas down on a raft, letting them seamlessly float away feels good on one of those days.

You trust that your thoughts will end their journey in a good port even though you can’t see it yet.

That’s the way writing feels on an ideal day if you’ve ever wondered.

That’s the way we wish writing could be all the time.

It’s most often not.

Expressing ideas, committing ourselves to stories, writing down our thoughts in an effort to go somewhere with it all, is like taking a life raft into open waters.

It’s a lot less scary when you can see miles down to the bottom, are being gently rocked by the slow predictable current beneath you and the clear skies above you reach far into the distance.

Yesterday I found myself on my very own beach with cold wet sand in my shoes, wind hitting my face, an unsteady unfocused sea to contemplate. High waves crashing down the rocks on the shore. The clouds, an uncertain mess, an assurance of a uncomfortable time.

My ideas would just fly off into the hectic sea. I’d have to swim hard, tire myself to retrieve them. No chance of going anywhere without painful, excruciating work.

There is a lot of talk about writer’s block. The way I see it, it’s 99% of the time the result of looking at the whirling pool of water with trepidation.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the tide does pull away completely. It’s okay to stay on the beach with your thoughts then.

But don’t shy away from jumping in when it goes back up again, even if it’s a grey day with thunder rumbling in the distance.

There is value in stories of gentle voyages at sea but there is a lot more to learn from dangerous adventures where we are flipped off our boats and have to dive deep into the foamy waters.

Coming back up, we may find that the story we tell in the end was not the one we intended but the one that was needed.

*Photo Credit: Ben Salter flickr Creative Commons 2.0


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