We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it — but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
October 12, is the traditional Columbus Day— a nautical theme seems apt. Oliver’s words inspired me to explore four paths he describes:
Sailing with the wind: When we sail with the wind, we make progress quickly and easily. The wind works in harmony with our vessel and we know the joys of speed and the feeling that we are moving in the right direction. We are unencumbered and free. These moments may be rare, but we’ve all experienced them: We’re in a state of flow — everything sails along as if we are sliding on glass. The ocean of words yields up its treasures to us and we experience a joyful freedom, even exhilaration.
Sailing against the wind: The ocean batters our frail bark and we fear we may sink and disappear, never to be heard from again. There are obstacles, there is friction, there is energy-sapping fatigue as we struggle against forces that seem to challenge our very right to write. These are tough moments: whatever we’re writing seems to defy us and invite us to give up, give in, and let ourselves down.
Drifting: This is almost worse than sailing against the wind. When we sail against the wind, we know our opponent — we have something to battle. It can be fatigue or lack of confidence or external circumstances that buffet us and threaten to blow us off course. When we drift, there’s no friction and no progress, however slight. We wander aimlessly and often stray off course, overcome by our lack of direction and purpose.
Lying at anchor: When we lie at anchor, we’re not even in the game. We’re not under sail and on our way somewhere. We’re not honing our gifts or charting our path or battling the elements. We’re safe and secure. We haven’t left our comfort zone, so nothing’s going to happen. We may talk up a storm, but when it comes to putting pen to paper or fingers to the keys, something holds us back. We never set sail.
“We must sail,” Oliver tells us: We’re either riding with the wind or sailing against it. Drifting along aimlessly or never leaving port. Let’s ride the waves!
Sometimes, they’ll carry us along with the wind at our back: We’ll have a great few hours or even days on the page. Sometimes we’ll sail against the wind, struggling to stay on course. But as so often happens in life, moments of struggle create movement and open up new opportunities. Conflict creates change. And change creates fresh ideas and new paths.
So let’s be wave riders as we all write on!
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