Writing and nature

I’ve been doing a great deal of bird watching in the past year, including monitoring an osprey nest, from nest-building through final flights on a live web cam, all last summer. As I continued working on my novel, the osprey family provided me a metaphor for the creative process.

Bird families start when the mating instinct brings forth the eggs. There is much sitting and waiting and waiting, followed by the first tentative taps and peeps from inside the shells. Already it’s clear that not everything emerges at this point. Some don’t hatch.

Nurturing and feeding, meeting demands, encouraging are all done for the chicks. Lack of attention at any point can create disaster. But nature tends to take care of itself, win or lose. With commitment and luck, there will be fledging, then much practice, then finally flight.

At the risk of beating this metaphor to death, what I’ve learned is: we get an idea and start something. If it feels good and real, we edge it forward, feed it and see what happens as it grows. Bottom line: it doesn’t always work. Statistics show that about fifty percent of osprey don’t make it. There are hazards everywhere. I’ve always known, whether or not this makes people sad, we need to trust nature. What lives is stronger. Ask Darwin.

I’ve been working on this novel since I started wondering about my father’s childhood. It’s been almost five years, and last week I typed “The End.” While this writing has been possibly the most exciting thing I’ve done since having children, what I have to now admit is that I’ve just become acquainted with my chicks. I anticipate the next steps with hope, but the real work starts now.