Yesterday I took my family on a four-hour fishing charter off the coast of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. It was a near-shore trip. We were at most a mile and a half off the coast trolling for Spanish Mackerel in 20-50 feet of water. As it turns out, there was time to think.
Fishing: The trip out from the marina and the first hour were uneventful.
Writing: Getting started each day is mundane, routine. It is not exciting. It takes time to get to the place where you can focused on the work.
Fishing: The second hour was uneventful too, but for the churn of the sea and sky and a sheet of rain.
Writing: We sputter, lift, and roll in search of some line that might lead to a paragraph, and perhaps promise the flash and glimmer of story.
Fishing: The third hour saw one of my daughters catch a Spanish that was too small to keep.
Writing: The ratio of words that we write vs. the words that we keep is not in our favor. Those sentences that at first suggest such promise are often the first to come under the Delete key.
Fishing: The fourth hour my son caught a ten-inch Lizardfish.
Writing: Ugly writing will appear under the tips of our pens. The key is to recognize how ugly it is, avoid compromise, and move on.
Fishing: On the way back to the marina we saw some dolphins playing in the causeway and for a few minutes our fishing charter became a nature tour.
Writing: Lean into the unexpected. When something pops up that is not on your target, pause.
Fishing: I didn’t lay my hand on a rod all afternoon.
Writing: Ending the day without a viable sentence is still a day spent searching for one.
Fishing: I tipped the captain and stepped back onto the dock.
Writing: The time spent with your butt in the chair is the cost you pay. The results will sometimes come and often not. The protocol is the only constant.