My younger son recently decided that I should collect turtles, and he should be the one to give them to me. On Mother’s Day, I received the third from him—a stone pendant he found at one of our favorite old town shops, Nature's Own. (That’s her in the picture.) The other day when I put it on, I realized that turtles and writers share some important traits:
We’re patient with a slow pace. Writing can be slow. Revising can be slow. Editing can be slow. When the polishing is finally done, the submission process can be the slowest part of all. Thanks to email, some industry folks are quite quick these days—I once received a “no thank you” to an electronic query in the time it took for me to grab a ‘congratulations-I-sent-it’ cookie (which then became a consolation cookie). But many others still take weeks, if not months, to reply, which can test the most steadfast resolve.
We’re persistent. I've read that the jaws of snapping turtles sometimes don’t unlock even after death. Although this does evoke the unsettling image of me sitting at my desk in full rigor mortis with a copy of The Writer’s Market clamped in my hands, writers are well-served by that kind of persistence. Grab onto your dream, and don’t let go for anything.
We have thick shells. Even the personal, encouraging rejections sting a little. And the others…well, if you’ve been there, you know what I mean. A hard carapace is very useful for ego protection.
Turtles have been on this planet for 230 million years—ages longer than Euripides, Shakespeare, and Ray Bradbury combined. As one might expect from such ancient residents, turtles and tortoises figure prominently in myth and folklore from all over the world. They are generally seen as creatures of endurance, strength, longevity, fertility, wisdom, and perseverance. These are all qualities I gladly embrace as a writer. (Turtles are also an auspicious feng shui symbol, which fits with my plan to improve the chi of my work space.)
I do have days when I wish my career would leap, hare-like, from the starting line a la Stephanie Meyer’s. But, as I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen, I’ll just keep moving steadily forward. And if I take some chances by sticking my neck out from time to time, I may find I was closer to my goal than I thought.
Thanks to my son, I found a little inspiration in an unexpected place. I love when that happens. How about you?