Catch of the Day
I don’t fish very often and am quite an amateur in every sense of the term. A seasoned veteran I am not. Even though I love the silence and the stillness one experiences while fishing, there is a reason it is called fishing, and not catching.
I sought to make sure my line was sitting as close to where I had seen that monster jump five minutes earlier, hoping it would be still waiting for me. Patience while fishing is not something that comes easy. Fifteen feet away, that same fish appeared to be mocking me as it jumped out of the water. I reeled in, and cast toward the ripples that were still spreading from his taunt, causing me to ask, “Who is fishing for who here?” This went on for hours the one time I would go fishing each year.
Suddenly, after enduring the summer sun all day, I felt a tug on my line. Jolted from the silence and stillness, I swallowed my tongue in anticipation of the fight that may ensue, hoping the fruit of my labor was stuck on the end of my line. Then, another tug, forcing me to set the drag, and thus begins the greatest impression of Rock Hudson from Man’s Favorite Sport you have ever seen.
Finally, a 28” redfish flopped on the deck heckling, you havn’t caught me yet,” as it jumped towards the edge of the dock. Every time I try and grab the slithering monster, it slips out of my hands. So, I do what any amateur fisherman would do: look around for a professional. Someone with more experience, to do the dirty work of unhooking, cleaning, and prepping the fish for the fryer while I bask in the spotlight of the biggest fish caught that weekend.
This is often my frustration as a writer as well. You sit in the silence of the crashing waves for hours, waiting for that word to find its way to your hook. You even dab your pole a little, simulating an actual meal for the fish you know are circling around, still silence. No bites.
Why is the flow of creativity stagnant with toxic waters of fear, disbelief, and lack of inspiration? Like one standing at the Rocky Mountains and feeling not even a tingle of the finger.
For me, I have learned that if nothing comes, I tend to write the worst piece of garbage, because maybe those words need to escape the prison of my mind so that there is now space and freedom to actually properly hear.
Sometimes, you sit in a coffee shop and the prose flows effortlessly. Sometimes it doesn’t. It may come in the ache of night when you’re trying to sleep, and the words to your next hymn are poking you in the side, asking you to wake up like a child struggling to sleep due to nightmares. Because, it seems that 3am is the only time you could properly write this song.
The story may come following a conversation with a friend who is going through a divorce, an addiction, or some tragedy like the loss of a loved one. Whenever that times comes, is when you sit to write. When the muse beckons you to come and sit.
The first words you write may end up in the trash bin, which is perfectly normal. Don’t give up fishing. It may take several casts as you wrestle with patience, staring at the end of your line, wondering if your live bait would still be considered “live” bait. Don’t be afraid of the silence when nothing is happening. Or when the words that are flowing seem to be the minnows you catch and put on your child’s pole and throw it in so they can know what it feels like to catch something. Get those words out, because sometimes the engine of your boat sputters before it actually turns over. Same may happen to your writing.
You might be stalled and drifting along with the current. Never really seeming to find your flow. Until, that tug on the line. Set your pace, and reel in the story that is fighting at the end of your line. It may end up being a minnow, or it may be the biggest fish caught that weekend in the group you are with. When that tug occurs, get the words on the page. There is always time for revision and editing, but you don’t always have moments when the story seems to be writing itself, and the characters are coming alive. Sit in that moment and reel it in.
A book I read many years ago began with this sentence on one of the first few pages. “When people finish a book, they don’t remember the whole, they remember a part. They may remember one line.” Ironically, that’s the only thing I remember from the book. I don’t even remember the author or the book. I remember that one single sentence. Nothing prior, nothing after.
You don’t know what words will speak to a reader. That minnow you caught could be the very story that brings humor, strength, perseverance, or courage. Hold your catch of the day proudly, whether it be a minnow or the largest redfish you have ever caught. You’re now a fisherman.
Andy Tate is a singer-songwriter in Houston, TX who is also currently working on his first fantasy novel. He helps lead worship at The Haven Church in Katy, is a member of Christian Songwriters in the Round, and frequents local coffee shops.