My nephew was on a California beach on his 9th birthday. He looks pretty comfortable with beach life, doesn’t he? I expect he sees the ocean as a giant adventure.
Some people look at the ocean, the waves, and colors and it brings a sense of calm. I have a hard time even imagining that emotional response.
Over the last few years, I’ve had occasion to be at ocean view hotels in Florida for work. Even at a rooftop cocktail party, networking and talking shop, my heart races a little faster than normal simply because of the ocean view in the background. What can I say? I was born landlocked and that’s where I’m comfortable.
When I look over the ocean, it’s the endlessness of it all that frightens me.
Last weekend I had the honor of attending an AA meeting where my brother received his one year chip. The subject of the general meeting was fear.
His sponsor said, “The opposite of fear is faith.”
Crossing the Ocean
Can you imagine crossing to the unknown? Four hundred years ago the Puritans boarded ships with a simple faith in God. But the crewmen? Their trust in the maps, the ship itself, the other crewmen, and the captain set their tasks on the mission to cross the sea. Maybe they also had faith in a god, yet information, experience, even orders, were first to dictate the actions that guided and righted the ship.
Facing an Endless Horizon
I suspect the initial work of breaking an addiction looks something like this endlessness. You have to keep going, while not knowing what’s on the other side. Just get through one more day. Then what? A whole new world? Maybe. A desert island? Maybe. More of the same? Probably…for a while. I can see why faith is such an important element. And why groups like AA are so important, other crewmen who’ve been on the sea before, who throw out a life vest and say, “Welcome back” when someone falls and sputters off the board. They have knowledge of the oceans depth, experience handling the waves, and also faith. They calm each other’s fears, help right the ship, keep rowing, keep going, another 24…
My endless horizon: The Next Book
So, I wrote this book called The Innocent Prince. The idea and scratches of it started about 20 years ago. Then in 2011, I sat down in earnest. I wrote hard for several hours every day for two years. And while doing so, I also endeavored to learn more about writing, craft, the real gritty truths on fiction and books and, again, most importantly, craft.
I read and listened to novelist I admire who almost all mentioned that their first book (or two or three) were crap. This, for me, was not an option. I started too old. I don’t have time for the first book or two to suck.
So I wrote with confidence and learned with dedication. One thing I learned was, yeah, this first book was/is…not good enough.
Oh the years! The years and the emotion and the work and the passion! It feels like I went to the middle of the ocean, lost my love at sea, then was washed back to the shore alone and a little more broken then when I left.
It’s harrrd... I whine as I’m kicking in the sand. All that work and it feels like for naught.
To use a nautical term: ARGH.
Of course, it wasn’t for naught, really. I went out without knowing how to guide my ship. Well, my rowboat, actually. But that is all part of, and I hate this truth, the process.
Will I head out again? Yes. I must. My life, my love, and my lady is the sea. (And the sea is a metaphor for the story. Cuz I’m a writer and we use metaphors. I can’t help it!)
I’ve been spending the last few years building a better boat. Making maps and watching the stars. I’ll push off again silently in the night, and face that vast challenge. I battle the fear of the endlessness of the task.
The time is coming to trust the North Star’s inspiration to light the way and keep faith in the story pushing to be told.
What is your endless horizon?
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No, really- excellent.
OMG I KNEW IT! I knew you were going to do something epic and different with this. First, congratulations to your brother for his chip. That’s no small thing (my brother is on 25+ years now but still it’s a vast ocean). Second, yes, keep going and you’re NOT TOO OLD. I can’t remember where I read it but so many amazing books were published by people over the age of 50, and I’m pretty sure I’m older than you and I’m still working on my first, that I SO need to give up on being perfect. You are awesome. Keep writing. And swimming (but not in the ocean, Omaha girl). xo
Thanks for that, it makes me smile.
Hi Madra, I love your boat analogy of needing those supporters to help you believe you can overcome the most difficult obstacles. Those supporters have walked the plank and come back to show that even if you fall back into the rough ocean waters, it is completely possible to climb aboard again and lean on the faith of others who have done the exact same thing! That’s the power of living testimony and true support. No judgment, just a safe place to land and receive the grace of others who GET it. I really enjoyed the beautiful layers of your post.