How fascinating the world is! After penning my “Barrier Busting” post, I came across another way of looking at the obstacles we face in our writing. It seems only right that I should share this with you as well, since they seem to be two sides of the same coin. It’s from a short, lovely book with a beautiful title called, Writing From Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way by Georgia Heard.
Early in the book, there’s a chapter called “Don’t Try to Avoid the Rocks,” in which Georgia recounts this story: Her friend Marie took a raft trip down the Rio Grande. It was July and the water was low: The guides warned her group about the dangers of rafting the river that time of year. During the talk, one guide “kept stressing one rule above all others: Don’t try to avoid the rocks. Let your raft bump into them. The rocks will help you maneuver around the difficult places so you can proceed smoothly down the river.”
Marie told Georgia that, despite this advice, when the group spotted a rock, their first instinct drove them to try to steer clear of it. But whenever they tried this, they would get stuck. Eventually, they figured out that the guide was right and took his advice: “They saw a rock, bumped into it, bounced off, and glided backward. The current did the rest.”
Georgia gleaned something from this story of value to her as a writer. As she said so well, “I now have this crucial metaphor written out and pinned near my writing chair: DON’T TRY TO AVOID THE ROCKS. The obstacles I face — lack of time, too many projects at once — as well as the obstacles all writers face — rejection, criticism, doubts and insecurities, unfinished poems and stories — are impossible to avoid and can be valuable teachers. I can gather strength from them. They are inevitable parts of a writer’s life.”
“What are the rocks in the currents of your writing life? What obstacles keep you from writing?” Georgia asks at the end of her chapter and then adds, “Becoming aware of what is blocking you sometimes leads to a solution.”
As we identify and try to manage the “rocks in the currents” that seem to loom before us, it can help to remember, that the very barriers we face can be “valuable teachers,” and that we can “gather strength from them.” Avoidance isn’t always possible and it can drain our energies. If we “go with the flow” and accept the obstacles we face as part of the reality of our writing life, we may have a better chance of making them work for us, instead of against us as we all write on.