Being Stuck - Good? Bad? Indifferent?

Thursday, January 25, 2024

This river sure is beautiful this time of year. As many of you know, I live in Wisconsin very near the Manitowoc River. This is what the river looks like when I'm freezing and have the car set to high -  you will find me admiring her beauty. What I am NOT doing this time of year is kayaking. However, as I gaze at snow covered trees and slow moving waters, I remember a trip last May in my kayak through this very bend. I'd like to take you with me on that particular journey so we can discuss what it means to be stuck and analyze how we feel about it and how we, as writers, can use being stuck to our advantage.

I'm usually more of a casual kayaker; enjoying quiet inland lakes, bright sunshine, some fishing with my boys, and yes - even lunch and a beverage if the day allows. However, I am also up for adventure. When I was invited to go on a river excursion with a large group of people I eagerly jumped at the opportunity to learn something new. I packed up my kayak, a few adult beverages, some granola bars, sunscreen, bug spray, a first aid kit, water shoes, and a towel. I was a bit nervous knowing the miles we were covering would take over 6 hours and we would be finishing our trek very close to sundown. I think it's the mom in me that feels safer during daylight, or maybe it was the distance or time on the water that had me on edge.

This was my first river experience and I took on water and nearly tipped over while my vehicle was still in sight. I had hit a rock straight on and managed to get stuck. I'd be a liar if I told you I didn't even consider going back to the car and going home. With the tips and laughter of others in the group, I was able to get back on track. We all agreed a half hour in that I had a real knack for finding all the rocks and low spots and I was advised to get out and empty the water out of my kayak. I was riding very low in the water and I was cold. If you're wondering - I stayed cold and wet for the remainder of the 6 hour trip. I learned how to empty my kayak and had to do so several more times before we reached our destination.

Here's how the entire trip went (in my head):

"Oh dear - brace yourself Crystal - it looks like a..."

"seriously? again..."

"whew, I'm finally free of that one, I can relax a..."

"you've got to be kidding?"

"how much longer do we have to do this?"

"a little to the left and you won't..."

"for the love of all..."

This went on and on and on. When I would get to smooth waters I would try to relax, but no sooner had I taken a breath and I was navigating to avoid something or crashing into something or a combination of both. When we got to the end of the trip, there was a steep hill we had to push our kayaks up and then climb. I considered tossing my limp cold body back into my kayak and floating to wherever the river wanted to take me. It sounded easier than pushing the kayak up the hill. Obviously that would have been a poor choice, but by this time I thought the entire adventure may have been a poor choice. However, I'm in for next year (as foolish as that sounds) and I'm looking forward to it!

Now - how do we use this story when we talk about our writing? I'm sure you can see it - there are times we are excitedly holding our breath, times we feel stuck, like our book baby itself is trying to kill us, like we are taking on water, and like we may be inches from death (and I didn't even get into the bugs, sunburn, and peeing behind the trees). But... what would happen if we gave up? Well, if I hadn't emptied the water out of my kayak I would have drowned - and if you give up on your writing, your book baby won't make it either.

So... no matter how you're feeling, I'm here to tell you there are warmer days, smoother waters, and more laughter ahead. Just keep paddling, even if your arms are tired and even if your strength is fleeting. Just keep paddling.




Angela Mackintosh said...

Crystal, I love this post! :) I live near the Kern River, which has several rapids and was the training course for the Olympics. Companies lead rafting trips down it, and one of my goals is to do that! It's been pretty gnarly since last winter though since we had record breaking rain/snow and there were many deaths. So I'm waiting a bit until the water levels are better. Good for you for kayaking! Six hours is a long trip. I love the analogy to writing. "Just keep paddling." Beautiful post. :)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

What a perfect analogy for writing! It is just too easy to let the river overwhelm us.

I'm sure that I too could find every single rock with a kayak. And shadows that look like rocks.

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