One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein...
"A ship in a harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are built for."
I've always interpreted this to mean, "be courageous". Take risks, and give yourself credit for the successes in your life, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to the onlookers.
As an author, I think that courage is a pre-requisite to the endeavor. I don't see a lot of timid authors out in the world. Writers, I think, by nature - whether introvert or extrovert - are people who take risks. We write stories and characters that sometimes make us uncomfortable and challenge our belief systems. We ask questions of ourselves like, "Would they really do or say that? Does that make sense?" We craft story lines that risk losing a reader in complexity or diversion. We birth books like children, taking the risk that the dialogue we speak may not ring true in a reader's ears. We ask people to think.
We send books, like ships, out into the world in search of a safe harbor... while what we really strive for is the adventure. We want to rock the boat on a sea of undulating perspectives. We want to hunt the great white whale of success while charting new courses for our craft. We want to discover how we can make our own voice heard over the crashing surf, while remaining constant to our own True North. It's a perilous journey, fraught with danger and uncertainty. And yet, we continue on, mustering the courage to reef the mainsail and head into the wind, knowing the harbor is safe, but that's not what our ship was built for.
Trends and tides in the publishing world are vigorous with change. Occasionally, we land upon the soft, sandy beaches of bookshops and festivals, taking reprieve and respite from the tumult of crashing waves. But after a few days, we grow restless and bored. It is in our nature to seek out new island nations of readers at libraries, festivals, and fairs. We crave the adventure of the open air, the sting of constructive criticism that makes us better writers, and the bounty of opportunity to chart a new course, discovering new genres, characters, and plot twists with every connection of pen and keyboard.
This year has been frustrating for us all. Our ships have been beached for far too long. Moored outside of the harbor's safety, yet trapped just inside the coral reefs, preventing us from reaching the wide open sea. We've tried to seek out alternative adventures, diving deep below decks, stretching fathoms beneath in search of hibernating mermen and merwomen who might also be avid readers. We've sent out literary seagulls, Zooming into the air, screeching our stories in hopes that passersby might hear, and be intrigued to follow and read. We've stayed safe, heeding the harbormaster's suggestion that the adventure is never worth sails being torn to shreds by gale force winds, people thrown overboard, and not enough life rings to save everyone. But it hasn't been easy.
The new sailing season will soon be upon us, however, and it'll hold more adventure than we can imagine. New writers will join the regatta. They've been waiting all year to angle their tillers and raise their spinnakers in search of the reading rainbow just off the horizon, their publishing tridents held high with a confidence all greenhorns should possess. The seasoned veterans of our craft will once again set their course and watch for the tell-tale signs that a favorable current is drawing near. They'll ready their nets and cast a carefully crafted first line synopsis, hoping for a bountiful catch. Everywhere, we will hear the gentle songs of loyal literary sirens, singing our praises with reviews and five-star recommendations.
Until then, my dear friends, winterize your hulls, install bubblers to avoid the crushing effects of ice, stock provisions of ink, paper, and chocolate to last the long winter days, and remember... all is not lost. Take courage. Our storied ships will indeed sail again, after all, that's what they were built for.
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