From Dad’s basement workshop a scrap of pine wood, paints, and plumber’s putty. From Mom’s sewing supplies white or black thread, a needle, and twist ties from the kitchen drawer. Late into the night I used to work on building sailing ships in bottles. The work was delicate, requiring precision and diligence. And many times, just as the project neared completion, my hand would tense and just like that one little mast would snap in two, destroying my delicate miniature ship…
Sailing ships have always fascinated me and I loved building those ships in bottles. The hunt for just the right bottle, the sketching of the ship I designed to go inside of it, the layout of the ocean. I don’t have a workshop anymore so I have not been able to make one since I was a teenager.
My father recently gave me some of the tools that I used to make the ships with, so I will get back to building them soon. Building those little ships disciplined me in one of the most important virtues of art. More specifically, my art, which is writing.
Experience has shown me that most writing projects end up rushed. Often we start off writing with a relaxed enthusiasm that optimizes creative flow. Later we start feeling the timetable is getting away from us, whether it is a deadline with our publisher or the pressure of your fans who eagerly await your new title. Fashioning a ship-in-a-bottle requires an immense level of patience, and writing requires the same. I have found that good writing requires a patient pursuit of the writing craft. Educaton and connection are keys to improvement. From building ships in bottles I gained a greater level of patience than I believe I would have gained otherwise.
Q: What projects have helped you focus and gain patience?
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