Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ebb and Flow

Much like the tide, our writing process ebbs and flows, the words coming in waves then retreating in the same way that the sea rushes into shore and then pulls back, only to rush forward again.

The more time we spend writing, the more we become aware of this process, and as our stories emerge from the sea, we are able to see with each new draft how the process ebbs and flows, one revision spilling into another.

We wait for words and stories to wash over us like we wait for the return of the tide.

We wade through silence in the same way we wade through tide pools, hoping to discover something interesting beneath the sparkling surface, something that will catch our eye, a hidden treasure that the tide brings us.

We swim far out beyond the breakers toward the horizon in the hope of finding a story, and we return to shore to write an endless number of pages—a sea of pages—hoping the words will reveal our story to us in ways that we can’t know until the words are on paper.

When we’re not swimming, we tread water, or splash in the shallow surf with other swimmers, enjoying the feel and taste of the salt air almost as much as we love the feel and taste of the water.

Just being near the water—walking along the beach or sitting in the sand gazing out to sea—is sometimes enough to satisfy our need for words and stories.

In the ebb and flow of writing, there is a time to submerge ourselves in words and a time to retreat from words, to pull ourselves out of the surf and dry off and rest.

That’s why over the next few weeks I’m stepping out of the water and taking a break.

My fingers are wrinkled like raisins from spending so much time in the water, my lips are blue, my ears are waterlogged, and my arms and legs are wobbly from so much swimming over the past year.

So, I’m going to rest on shore for a few weeks and enjoy the sound of the waves and gaze at clouds and imagine stories that I might write in the months ahead. I’m going to read and rest so that I can regain the strength a swimmer needs to re-enter the water and continue swimming.

I hope you’ll find a way to tap into the ebb and flow of your own writing process in the coming weeks so you’ll know when it’s time to step out of the water and listen to the music of the waves from a different vantage point. 

Even if it’s only a momentary pause in your swimming, it’ll help remind you why you are drawn to the water and why you are so reluctant to leave it.

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