This summer I did something I had never done before: parasailing. If you don’t know what it is, basically you’re attached to a parachute, then tethered to a motorboat, which speeds off, hoisting you hundreds of feet in the air. Some people find the idea of this terrifying. As for me, I was intrigued. Was it scary? Nope. Not a bit! Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Later, after the exhilaration wore off, it occurred to me that parasailing also applies to my writing life.
Here’s are 4 lessons I learned about writing
1. If you have a dream — go for it!
Last year, when my husband and I were vacationing in Cape May, NJ, we lay on the beach, entranced by the parasailers floating overhead. It looked like fun, but we had some nagging doubts. It looked great as we were sitting on the safety of the beach looking up — but would we chicken out when the time came to actually be thrust up in the air? Still, we vowed we would return to Cape May this year and go for it. We refused to let self doubts get in the way or leave it up to chance. So we booked a spot with the parasailing company before we arrived.
Lesson learned: Don’t leave your writing to chance. And don’t let self-doubt spoil your desire. Make a commitment – and book time with yourself to write.
2. Trust the process
Since this was our first time been parasailing, we had no idea what to expect. Essentially, we were putting our lives in the hands of strangers (though we felt confident we had chosen a company with an excellent safety record). Our guides were two very experienced and entertaining young men. We felt confident that they knew what they were doing — and their joy in their work made everyone feel at ease. All we had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.
Lesson learned: Just as we relaxed and let the pros take care of all the particulars, as a writer, learn to relax and let your characters take over the story. Let them take you places you’ve never been to — even if it means metaphorically jumping off a cliff. And, don’t be afraid to go to a professional editor for help, either.
3. Embrace peace
The best part of parasailing was the sense of peacefulness I felt. There were no cell phones, no email, no TV, no constant chatter: just me, my husband, the sky above and the ocean below. For 12 glorious minutes, all I could do was just “be.”
Lesson learned: As writers, we all need to find those moments of peace — what Deepak Chopra calls “the gap” — where the mind becomes still and the heart opens to possibilities. Find some time every day to just be still and peaceful. If meditation is not your thing, sit quietly in a garden, or pet your cat or dog, or stare into a candle flame, or soak in a warm bath. You’ll be amazed how the floodgates of creativity will open. Knotty plot problems will find a way to solve themselves, characters will speak to you, and new ideas will bubble up to the surface.
4. Try a new angle
Most of the time we humans see the world from 5-6 feet up. How different the world looks when you’re 300 feet in the air, with nothing beneath you but air. We could see for miles, which gave us a real appreciation for the topography of Cape May. We could even see the curve in the Earth!
Lesson learned: Sometimes we get so fixed on the ideas that first sparked our writing that we can’t see any other way of telling our story. Shake things up! Write from a different character’s point of view. Play around with the chronology. Tell your story from the dog’s point of view. Put your story in another era or setting. You may not actually go with any of these choices in the end, but they can help you see your story with a fresh pair of eyes so your writing remains fresh and engaging.
Next summer, I’ve put jet skiing on the agenda – another thing I’ve never done before. I’ll let you know how that one turns out.