Monday, June 29, 2009

Writing Is Like Fishing

By Sandra Elzie

I’ve always loved to fish, casting my line into the water at the tender age of six in a stream near my home in North Carolina. The biggest problem back then was that I was trying to fish in a stream where I had only seen minnows and therefore, believe it or not, I never caught a fish. But I didn’t let that stop me from trying and trying and trying again on other days.

Almost half a century later, my husband was again listening to me expound on how I intended to write a book…someday…after I retired. At that time I wasn’t sure when that magical retirement date would be, but I was sure that it would include sleeping in, traveling and having all the time in the world to write the masterpiece that I was sure I was capable of writing. Besides, as a woman, I speak 15,000 words a day, so if I just wrote them all down, I’d have my first New York Times Best Seller in less than a week. Piece of cake. Then I could hire someone to clean the dust bunnies from under the bed and that would free even more of my time.

Then came the day when the rubber met the road. Or I might say that he called my bluff…if it was a bluff…and he asked me how much time I spent watching television and reading and then proceeded to ask me why I didn’t use half of that time to write. Why was I putting it off until retirement?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that he was a genius. I could have my cake and eat it too. I could work 40-hours a week, continue to cook the meals and chase the bunnies, and write the novel of the decade…in my spare time.

Well, being a strong-willed woman, I picked up the gauntlet he had so cleverly tossed down and started on the road to publication. Over the past six years I’ve learned some things that might help the new writer or make veteran writers laugh as they nod their heads in agreement.

When anyone takes up fishing, he or she might land “the big one” on the first try. Skill? Definitely. Beginner’s luck? Maybe, but for most of the novice fisherman, it takes someone instructing him on the finer points, explaining about the right rod and reel to use and the best “line” to use depending on what type of fish you’re going after.

So you don’t fish or understand what I’m getting at? Well, let me simplify it.

To catch the big fish, it takes patience and a desire to continue fishing until you hook a fish on the line, and if you fail today, you have to be willing to come back again and again, maybe trying a different bait, but never giving up on your goal.

In writing, you have to be willing to get rejection letter after rejection letter until the day comes when you get the one saying they liked your first three chapters and they want you to send in the entire manuscript.

You have to be willing to practice, to learn from others and read books written to help you learn the techniques of fishing…or writing. But most of all, you have to believe in yourself. If others have learned how to fish, you can too. If others have succeeded in catching a trophy fish suitable for displaying on their den wall, then you can follow in their footsteps and achieve great things also.

You might get discouraged at times, but if you keep practicing your craft, one day you will “hook” the big one and a framed copy of your first book cover will be mounted on your den wall.


Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning Sandy:
I keep scouting out the big fish, practicing my casting, and writing away. Looking for that trophy fish!

Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Debbie,
Girl, you have the potential for a really BIG fish with your current WIP. In the words of Winston Churchill to his country in WWII, NEVER GIVE UP.


Marilyn Baron said...

The only time I've ever gone fishing I caught a boot, but your analogy was right on target. It's all about patience and practice. I enjoyed your post.

Marilyn Baron

Sandy Elzie said...

Good morning Marilyn,

What a funny story! Bet it didn't fry up very well! (little tough to chew)

You're right. Practice and patience and a big dose of self confidence that assures you that someday it will be my turn.


CiCi Barnes said...

Patience, patience, patience. Add to that, determination. Determination makes you get in there and learn the craft, improve, and go for the gold. With those two things you can catch a lot of fish and finally reel in a publisher.

Thanks for reminding us that we can do it.


Cinthia Hamer said...

Sandy, I love to fish, too. Caught my first when I was only three...and it towed me into the lake! I cried.

That never kept me from going back and throwing my line back in the water.

Same with writing. I still haven't caught the big one, but I've learned how to use the equipment more efficiently and I've learned that having a buddy along on the trip helps keep a potentially boring and frustrating expedition fresh and entertaining.

Anna Steffl said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement, Sandy. I'm so encouraged, I'm going to work on the chapter from hell...the moment after the black moment.

Tammy Schubert said...

Thank you for the inspiration. I'm going to keep plugging away and hook the big one as soon as I can.

Linsey Lanier said...


Love your analogy. My father used to take me fishing when I was a kid. I may have caught a small one once or twice, but we didn't really take it seriously. I take my writing a lot more seriously. Thanks for reminding me that with hard work and determination, I might catch a big one some day. :)


Dianna Love said...

Sandy -
I love your blog and am laughing to myself. When asked to give my first keynote in Colorado I considered several subjects. When I started I told them I was going to talk about fishing...and hoped the conference coordinators hadn't just spewed their drinks across the table. :)

Great analogy. I love to fish and just landed a couple snapper last week while seeing my family in Biloxi. The big thing about fishing is we always have a good time no matter how many fish - trophy or average - we catch.

I love also that your husband called you on writing a book. That man is a keeper.

Sandy Elzie said...

Hi CiCi, You're right. Patience is sooo important. It's a requirement if you're going to have a good attitude while continuing to cast your line in the water again and again and again.

Cynthia, I love that you mentioned having a buddy helps. That's what our support group is. Whether it's someone in our family, a close non-writing friend, or our critique partner(s), it's always such a sweeter ride to go with a buddy.


Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Anna, Sorry to hear that you're tackeling the chapter from hell...sort of like trying to land a marlin, I would imagine. Hang in there and you'll be the winner.

Tammy, I know we write because we love it, or maybe it's because we have to get it out and on to paper, but if we keep plugging, the Big One will come...mine was when I least expected it.


You're so right about hard work and determination being needed to land the big mama fish. Writing for publication isn't for sissies. It demands hard work...our best hard work, but oh what a good feeling to have the trophy hanging on the wall.


Sandy Elzie said...

Dianna, I can just see someone who has worked their tail off hearing you say you were going to talk about fishing and spew their drink across the table. LOL

You're right that it doesn't matter the size fish (average or trophy....small press or Large) it's reaching that first step of selling your work to someone. It's also about having a good time while you're doing it.


Maxine Davis said...

Loved your post and I love to fish! Very seldom get to now, but I have good memories - plan to do it again.

I loved how your husband got you to start writing. He sounds so supportative. When it had been 2 weeks and I had not written a thing, my husb asked me how many pages I'd written. I sheepishly said I was going to do it now - and I did. It's just I hate this middle part of the book.

But I know I'll never get that 'framed copy' by not writing! Thanks.

J Perry Stone said...

I never get tired of hearing encouragement, particularly when paired with a great analogy.

Thank you so much, Sandy.

I read once that what makes a "genius" in any particular arena is not innate talent one is born with--as many people think--but in fact the obsessive desire to practice a thing until it is well and fully mastered.

You're saying much of the same thing.

Tami Brothers said...

LOVE this!!! You always have very encouraging posts, Sandy!!! Thank you for that.

I look at the "fishing" part of writing as a writer needing really good "bait." Just like with fishing, you have to have the bait the fish are looking for. If you have a really good and well edited manuscript, those editors and agents will snap it right up... Wouldn't that be a nice trophy to hang on the wall?

Thanks for the fun analogy and have a great day!


Sally Kilpatrick said...


What a wonderfully poetic piece. I really enjoyed it, and it would explain my impatience since I grew up fishing from a stocked pond where you'd get a bite on the line before you could turn over your five gallon bucket good.

I'll keep casting. Come to think of it, though, I wish I could write how my Uncle Les fished: shooting the breeze from a boat at night while putting back a few cold ones. It's a little more work than that, though, isn't it?


Sandy Elzie said...

Can't wait to see your "framed copy" on your wall. All who work hard on the craft deserve at least one. (g)

J, My parents told me that practice makes perfect...well, that isn't exactly correct. Bad practice or incorrect practice will not make perfect, so we have to listen to those who have traveled the road before us and try to miss the pot holes they hit along the way. The better we practice the correct way, the sooner we'll have that Big Fish.


Thank you for the kind words. I always try to encourage people but also try to never lie to them or mislead them. Without encouragement, without hope for success, we'd all be tempted to quit, so thank you for all your kind words since that is encouraging to me!

Sally, Wish it was as easy as tipping back a few cold ones. (love that thought), but alas, it's work. (Can't lie to you!)

Thanks everyone for dropping by and sharing your thoughts.


Pamela-reader said...

Wow! I think it's so great your hubby called your bluff and got your creative side active!

Mary Marvella said...

Like fishing? They won't let me fish. I wasn't quiet enough. I shall continue to cast my bread upon the waters though, Sandy