Anyone can drop a line in the water and hunt for fish. Those who work at it, and spend enough time doing it learn how to fish well. They learn the patterns of the fish, how they swim, and what kind of things attract them best.
Writing is a lot like fishing, or what I imagine fishing to be, as I am not a fisherman. It is easy to look at a fisherman and understand what he is doing, but to understand how the fisherman came to understand what goes on beneath the water where they cannot see, you’d have to spend the endless hours patiently waiting as they have done.
Sometimes, after waiting and waiting, you catch one on your line, and if you tease it correctly, and handle it well enough, the fish will be yours. Sometime, though, the fish escapes you and you have lost that fish. It is essential to remember that there are other fish, and that if you cast another line, another fish will eventually come your way. Perhaps a fish even better than the last one.
They even say a story is a living thing, and that the process of writing proves to a writer that not everything that’s going on is entirely within your control. After the endless patience required to cast your lines, and to sit with your private thoughts, your line will snare that idea you’ve waited for so long to tangle with. That idea, that living thing, can get away from you, can slip through your fingers, or even turn out to be debris when you though it was a prize. The wisdom of writers, and the patience of fishermen, is to accept the disappointment, untangle your line, and cast it again.
You will succeed. That is the rule of hooking things, the law of averages at work. You will, unfailingly, catch something if you work at it long enough. It appears to be unfair, from the outside, when a child casts a line into the water and brings up something beautiful. The amateurs are the ones who shake their head and refer to luck and coincidence. If you look deeper into the crowd, you’ll find the old fishermen, the ones who nod amongst themselves, saying only that it is a fine fish, a fish worth having.
Stories are written by everyone, either on paper or otherwise. But some things are only truly appreciated by those who have wanted it, strived towards it, and become accustomed to the fact that it isn’t about the story you catch, its about the fine beauty you’ll uncover in searching for it.
The greatest fish ever caught are the ones the fisherman throw back into the water. The ones that no one sees but themselves. The ones that may or may not be caught by someone else; some novice with a lucky hook. But the fisherman knows that fish was once their own, and even knows that it was someone else’s before him.
If you ask fisherman why they fish, you’ll hear tell of the calm it brings. You won’t hear them wishing for the biggest, brightest new fish that will compete with all the other new fishes brought to auction. You will hear the words that come out of their mouth, whatever they may be, but you will be listening mainly to the cadence of eternal patience, and be inspired by it.