When I am nervous I find that my mind is preoccupied with old thoughts. These thoughts have served their purpose, have, like the coals in a steamship’s belly, burned and moved me forward through time. If a particular thought burned very hot and took me very far it can be difficult to see it as an old thought. I feel an allegiance to it, wishing to enshrine this thought against evolution, viewing it through the fearful lens of my own mortality where I pity all things that must one day pass away. But it is uncomfortable to sit idle in the ocean when you can feel life calling you forward. I descend into the furnace room and fan those old thoughts, enamored for a moment with the brute usefulness of action, as if I had succumbed through distraction to laziness. When my efforts yield no movement, I despair. What use is my knowledge of the seas and my skill behind the wheel? The ocean is my new master, and I am its slave.
I had forgotten in my discomfort that idleness is invention’s friend. So much easier to scan the horizon when I am not busy being enthralled by my own speed. And there it is, some spot out beyond the waves that looks interesting. Do you see it? I ask a friend. No, he does not. How strange. Still, there it is again. But how, I wonder, might I get there?
Now my boat is moving once again. I do not even notice its advancement, as my eyes are still trained on what I see. Until at last I feel the movement, and now I am behind the wheel, and I have forgotten my despair as one would a dream, and I love the ocean for all its possibilities. And in the ship’s belly, these new thoughts have caught their fire from the old, their heat requiring no fan but the wind of my curiosity.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.