On Catching Fish With Your Bare Hands

As a writer who educates three middle-schoolers at home, I have little time to stare at a blank screen in the mornings.  If the words don’t come when I need them to, if I can’t get things down in the early quiet, I feel the Pop Rocks of Panic start to fizz somewhere under my left lung.

Because, for me, the words I write are proof of life, as melodramatic as that surely sounds.  I don’t make actual things for a living, like some people do (if you don’t count that one season when I made three human beings in 32 months).  In fact, most of the work I do in a day’s time seems to evaporate into the ether with no real proof that I did it.

Except for the words.  This morning they won’t come, and my breathing’s a little shallow.

Writing is a lot like homeschooling, which, in turn, is a lot like trying to catch fish with your bare hands.  You keep grabbing moments, waiting, calming your breath, lunging again (don’t be so clumsy this time), repeating the whole thing–while trying to forget about how ridiculous you must look.


When I don’t catch any fish right away (write any words worth keeping, or successfully explain, say, certain biological concepts), I have to trust that it’s the trying, the not-quitting, that equals success, at least in the short run.  Even if it seems like nothing is happening at the moment.

So, yes, the cursor is blinking, and the kids have knocked on my bedroom door, signalling that it’s onward and upward.

But it’s OK.  I’ll bide my time.

I’ve noticed that fish often come when you’re looking the other way.