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“For me, writing starts with a line or some imagination, or some notion, and I just go with it as far as I can. And you know how this works, this idea that you sort of set yourself afloat on the language ….
“And you think, I’ll see how far it can take me before this little raft I’ve cobbled together falls apart and everybody understands that I’m really just a fraud, or drowning – whichever comes first.” Thomas Lynch
A “little raft” afloat on a sea of words – what a wonderful description of the act of writing! We come up with an idea and then another, we keep adding little bits and pieces, and eventually we craft a small craft that we can use to venture out into the world in.
And we all know those feelings of doubt, too, that wash over us. As we slowly patch together our work, we all experience moments when we feel that we’re fakes – that we’re just pretending we know what we’re doing. Or we feel overwhelmed – as if we’ve fallen overboard and are drowning – going deeper, in over our heads.
Ah, but when the work is going well! When it’s going well, there’s really nothing like it, is there? Then the ideas come, the words flow, and language is like a river, gently guiding us forward. If you’ve ever floated quietly and smoothly along on a raft, you know what a joyous, peaceful feeling it is — the water simply carries you forward at a steady, unassuming pace. There’s no struggle, no strain. Just you and your raft and the river.
Many moons ago, I had the good fortune to raft down the Green River in Utah with a group of wonderful women and several experienced guides. One of the guides was fond of saying, “The river is true to itself in all conditions.” I’ve never forgotten her words and think of them from time to time.
When I’m struggling with something, a piece of writing or a project that’s not going well, I try to remind myself that, “The river is true to itself in all conditions.” The river doesn’t struggle, it doesn’t battle the rocks that block its path, it doesn’t resist. It simply is itself in every sort of weather and circumstance. Somehow, I find this idea comforting. If I stop resisting, if I’m true to myself and what I’m trying to accomplish, then at some point, I’ll break free of whatever is holding me back and I’ll enter the flow of writing once more.
How comforting it is to know that rivers flow where they need to go, where they are meant to go. They arrive without a timetable or a goal or a plan. And when the rains come, the rivers are replenished so they can answer the call of the universe. Today, let’s think of the story or novel we’re writing as a little raft. Let’s climb aboard and let the river take us wherever it is we need to go. Write on!