Last December, I acquired some new baby seahorses for my aquarium.
I quickly realized that one of the four was born without a “snick” – the snapping suction action that seahorses use to capture and eat their prey. Where seahorses normally snick up food, this little fellow could only inhale weakly and hope something made it far enough up his snout to reach his belly.
In the wild, a seahorse like this would not survive, and the breeder I purchase my seahorses from sent another seahorse to replace this little fellow. They guarantee healthy stock, and by that measure this little one was “defective.” Had they noticed his issue, he would have been culled (euthanized) and never reached my reef at all.
But I’m glad he did, and not only because I like his spunk and determination.
This little seahorse (I named him “Magellan”) has taught me something important about the writing life as well as the undersea world.
Just because the odds are against you, that doesn’t mean you have to surrender–or that you should.
Writing isn’t an easy life. The odds are against a writer from the start. In addition to learning how to write–a difficult task in itself–the writer must finish a novel, edit the novel, choose and pursue a publishing path and…and that’s just the beginning. After completing the Herculean task of reaching a published state, the author still needs to find and engage an audience…
…while also writing, editing, and preparing to publish another book.
And another book.
It’s easy, once you get into that process, to feel like the little seahorse who hasn’t got a snick. It’s easy to wonder why everyone else seems to have it easy, while you have it awfully hard. It’s tempting to hide in a corner, alone with your woes, and feel sorry for your troubles. It’s simple to think you’d be better off if you simply gave up on the dream.
Whenever those black-dog moments arise (and they happen to every author, no matter where he or she is on the publishing path) it’s time to take another look at Magellan.
He has no snick. He’s very small, and he probably won’t ever reach the size or strength the other seahorses have. He won’t be the biggest, the fastest, or the seahorse with the prettiest mate. He won’t be the dominant male on the reef.
Whenever there’s a pileup, he’s the seahorse on the bottom. When the others interact, he’s always just a bit behind.
And yet, he’s happy.
Magellan buzzes around with a genuine joy that’s more than merely an anthropomorphism of his behavior (you can tell when a seahorse gets depressed, and you can tell when they’re feeling happy). He loves to swim, and he loves to be with the other seahorses, even when that means he’s the bottom of the pile.
He loves to eat, even though it takes him many times longer than it takes the others.
Magellan enjoys his life on the reef, even though it’s difficult and even though he isn’t like the others. He’s living his dream–just being alive–and his little spirit chooses to focus on the happy things instead of the ones that give him trouble.
Truly, a lesson the rest of us should absorb.
No one’s publishing path is easy. No one’s life is easy, for that matter. All of us face challenges and obstacles along the way. Sometimes, those obstacles seem insurmountable, but we need to face them as best we can and focus on the positives, even when times seem tough.
There is peace to be found in the hardest of moments. Our challenge is choosing to find it.