Monday, May 24, 2010

Turtle Power

Post by Jenny

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?


Jennifer Carter said...

Awesome post! And I have a brand new respect for turtles. :)

I think animals in general are great for inspiration, especially squirrels--they don't sit around for hours wondering why they're here on this planet, they just do what they do, are what they are, and don't worry about what their neighbors might think about how many peanuts they eat for breakfast.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

What a great analogy. I’ve always thought turtles were cute but now I have a whole new respect for them!

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

First of all--new follower! *waves*

I'm finally out of my revision hole for a few days while my agent rereads my draft, so I thought I'd do some blog hopping and try to connect with a few more writers. I hope you don't mind that I'm following you. I promise I mean that in a non-stalkerish way. :)

Anyway, I just wanted to say hi and thank you for this post. Inspiration really can be found anywhere--though I think it takes a special person to see it. Thanks for the reminder.

Happy Monday!

Dan Logue said...

Okay, not my mascot of choice, but then it isn't unusual to have such symbols thrust upon us (zodiac, coat of arms, neon girls in martini glasses, et al.) ...And you make some strong arguments as to why the turtle might qualify as a writer's icon.
To make the turtle more palatable to me (and that is not a soup reference) I think I would have to point out one comparison that you gave a respectful nod to... The underdog, or more accurately, the winning underdog in the fabled 'Tortoise and the Hare'. After all, it isn't really about how painfully slow you reach your objective... it is that you (eventually) do!
Excellent (and fun) post!

Jenny S. said...

Hey, Jen. I like the case you make for squirrels. Less introspection, more nuts. And fluffy tails, too.

Jane, thanks for weighing in on turtle power!

Shannon, welcome. It's always nice to connect with a new follower. I'll stop by your blog and non-stalk you, too :-)

Dan, thanks for pointing out that 'painfully slow' can still get the job done. As for the soup, Campbell's evidently used to make a Mock Turtle variety. Ewww...

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