Dad was a fly-fisherman who couldn’t resist the masochistic urge to wake in the quiet predawn hours and stumble, blurry-eyed out of the house. He drove to a nearby lake where he lowered his boat into the water, cranked the outboard engine into action, and navigated through the murky waters noting the water’s invisible currents and the direction of the wind. He anchored his boat near the shoreline, disembarked, and stood at the water’s edge casting his lure into the open water never knowing what he’d reel in. He gazed at the water for hours believing he could get a fish to bite on the lure and then pull that fish from the realm of the mysterious water into the world of his reality. When Dad caught a fish, he removed the hook from the its mouth, frequently releasing it back into the water. Sometimes he nabbed “a keeper”, a perfect fish for consumption.
Dad was fanatical about fishing. I wondered what drove him to be the angler that he was—until I became a writer. Suddenly his fanaticism made sense to me. I possess a similar masochistic urge to wake in the quiet predawn hours and stumble blurry-eyed into my office. I lower myself into my chair, crank my laptop into action, and navigate through the scattered papers and notes strewn across my desk noting the invisible currents and direction of the ideas blowing across my mind. I anchor myself to my desk and cast my mind onto the blank screen never knowing what I’ll reel in. Often I stare at the glassy screen for hours believing I’ll pull something from the realm of the mysterious into the world I’m creating. I catch a phrase or two but frequently release them back into the realm from which they came. Sometimes I nab a page or two that I dub as “keepers”, words perfect for consumption.
Indeed, anglers and writers share similar behaviors. Both enter into a staring contest with potential, a challenge devoid of guarantees. When an angler stands at the water’s edge gazing at a glassy pool, he’s scrubbed clean of life’s trivia and distractions. He’s confronted with the unconscious as surely as the writer who stares into the humming blank screen each morning, praying that from the fathomless gray, prose will rise. Both fishing and writing are largely acts of faith—a belief that there is indeed a rich run of fish or ideas lurking below. The angler’s false casts and hooked branches as well as the writer’s convoluted first drafts are all part of some cosmic ritual designed to seduce a shiny gem to the surface.
So, why are anglers and writers such fanatics? I can’t speak for anglers, I can only speak for myself. I love the adventure of taking that fearless, intuitive leap of faith onto a higher ground rich with ideas and imagination, never knowing what I’m going to reel in. It’s the not knowing that keeps me writing and fishing for words.