We are writers. Somewhere within us, is the need to communicate our thoughts in some lasting way. To articulate some feeling, the vision within, in the most potent manner. The process can be vital, latent, uncomfortable, and exhilarating all at the same time; experiences richly allegorized in Hemingway's story, The Old Man And The Sea.
The tale follows an old fisherman, Santiago, as he tries to prove his skill and restore his reputation. For 84 days he has gone out to sea and come back with nothing, not even a guppy. This is a scene familiar to most writers at least once – a period of low production that puts your abilities in question.
Alone, Santiago leaves the safety of familiar water in hope of catching a marlin. He endures hours upon hours of sweat and discomfort before he feels a tug on the line. In the same way, writers may spend hours researching, brainstorming, rewriting, trying to hook into the big one. We want it to be bodacious, the catch of a lifetime.
Then, just as the old man pours his strength out to bring the huge fish to the surface, we too work diligently to bring our catch up from the murky deep. On the surface, it's a beauty. The whole glistening thing looks wonderful as we lash the rough draft to our skiff.
Like Santiago, we see our destination far off and wonder if we can really bring it in. On the way, the tides change, our sails sag, and just as Santiago's fish is eaten away by sharks, we are harried by the voracious jaws of editing. They gnash here and there and gouge away chunks. And as Santiago beat at the sharks, we defend our prize viciously, trying to salvage every bit possible.
By the time we reach shore, our beautiful trophy has been ravaged. Sometimes, there's nothing left but a hard beginning, a floppy ending and a bony carcass in between. We're relieved that we've managed to bring some of it in. And we have proof that we aren't ‟salao, which is the worst form of unlucky”. We are encouraged by our friends and reassured of our ability. But for a while, we rest and dream about writing something new...something different.
And we will...because we are writers.