The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, November 24, 2015:


“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage

to lose sight of the shore.”

Andre Gide

The first time I went sailing was thrilling.  I was a senior in high school, and my best friend’s family had invited me to join them for a weekend on Pamlico Sound on the North Carolina coast.  My friend and her family were seasoned sailors, and they were patient and encouraging with the willing but nervous neophyte among them.

The waters of the Sound were gentler than the ocean just a few miles away, but they weren’t still in the sometimes-brisk breeze that whipped — it seemed to me, anyway — the sail of the four-person Catamaran.  I trusted my friends implicitly (for one reason, they insisted that everyone, regardless of skill or experience, had to wear a lifejacket), and it wasn’t long at all before I grew comfortable with the motions of the little boat, even to the point where I almost got the hang of when to duck and sway to avoid the sail when the Cat tacked back and forth.

I often think of that weekend and always, even 40+ years later, with great pleasure.  The weather was gorgeous, the waters of the Sound glistened in the bright and hot Carolina sunshine, and the company of my friend and her family was easy and comfortable.

I think of that weekend, too, whenever I’m tempted to stay in my comfort zones.  Before then, the only boat I’d ever been in was the old rowboat on my aunt’s and uncle’s little pond when I was a child, and I was always shaky getting in and out.  I knew, though, that I’d be all right because the pond wasn’t very deep and the shoreline was visible and close.  I wouldn’t be very clean if I fell in — the water was always mucky and muddy — but I’d be safe.

As writers, though, should we always want to stay safe?  If we don’t experiment, if we don’t explore, we won’t grow.  If my writing mentor hadn’t encouraged me to leave the supposed safety of short stories, I never would have embarked on my first novel.  If I didn’t have that sailing weekend to remember, I would have stayed with creative non-fiction and never taken the risk of experimenting with the possibilities of a zombie story (see the page above about taking the zombies out of writing for more about that) or fantasy or a second novel.  I wouldn’t leave the still waters of freestyle poetry for the once-distant shores of sonnets or haiku, or to puzzle out other various forms of poetry.  I wouldn’t have started this Website and blog.

An unattributed meme on Facebooks notes that ‘A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.’  What writing comfort zone do you need to set sail from?  What distant shores await you?

There are sun-glistened waters out there for you to find.  How can I help you find them?  It truly is thrilling out there!


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