|What I need a bit of every day|
With its waves and its swells and its tides, the sea beats a rhythm that I see reflected everywhere. And in doing so, it makes me realise that the crazy roller coaster swirls of life are not crazy swirls at all. They are, in fact, the patterns that lie at the heart of everything.
I am particularly fascinated by tides, by what they do, by their regularity, their predictability, their patterns. Without getting too technical, here is a tiny mini lesson in tides...
Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels, caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the moon and the sun, and the rotation of the earth. We have two high tides and two low tides each day. The reason for this is to do with the earth moving round the sun and the moon moving round the earth. High tides and low tides relate to the time it takes for these rotations to take place, and the journey from high to low and back again takes approximately twelve hours and twenty five minutes.
OK, lesson over; let's cut back to the seaside town. Tides make a huge difference to what goes on here. For example, on a low tide, I can take the dog for a beautiful long beach walk. On a high tide, she will scamper onto the tiny scrap of sand that is visible and whimper with fear as the waves brush her legs. (So much for her pirate dog status!)
|Poppy the Pirate Dog enjoying low tide walkies|
On a low tide, the harbour sits quietly, full of stranded boats. On a high tide, the fishermen can go out and make a living.
|The harbour at low tide|
On a low tide in summer, there's room on the beach for the weekly volleyball game. At high tide, the volleyball players are more likely to be seen in wetsuits daring each other to jump off the end of the pier into the deep waters below.
And so it goes on. There are monthly variations, too. Twice a month, around the full moon and new moon, we get what is called a spring tide. This is when the high tide is at its highest and the low is at its lowest.
|A full moon rising over the town, meaning big tides are coming|
|The old jetty, only visible on a very low tide|
|Mussels that spend most of their time hidden under the water|
As writers, our lives and our careers are full of ups and downs. If we have a great school event and sell lots of books, we are riding high. If we get a royalty statement that is down on the previous one, we worry that it's all going to end soon. If we hear that we have been shortlisted for a book award, we wonder if this might be the 'break out' book we've heard about. When we don't win the award, we think we'll never see our book in the shops again. We sell translation rights to a foreign publisher and we are elated. We hear of someone else selling for a much higher advance and we are down again.
The ups and downs are never ending. We write 3,000 words one day and we adore our job. We cross half of them out again the following day and we worry about writer's block. A contract from a publisher gives us security. A deadline gives us anxiety. On and on and on it goes. Sometimes we think that we can't take the ups and downs of it all any more. We get on the phone to our agents and start asking about paying back advances. Then suddenly, a plot point falls into place and all is well again.
I've experienced all of the above, and I know that it can make your head spin.
But then I look at the tides. I see that the tide is out and we can't go fishing, or the waves are high and we can't go surfing. These things don't give me stress and anxiety. They are beautiful and perfect, exactly as they are. Each thing we can't do means another one we can. No fishing means long walkies. No surfing means dramatic waves crashing over the pier. I don't stress about the position of the tide; I know that what I'm looking at isn't how it is forever. It's how it is now, in this moment, and it is constantly changing. In fact, the very fact of its constant flux is the most predictable thing about it!
|High tide and beautiful big waves|
The tide will come in, and it will go out again. That is life. That is writing. Underneath it all, the beach is still there, even if we can't see it. The story lives and breathes, even if we haven't yet found it. This is not a cause of anxiety. This is nature, and it is perfect and beautiful in all of its changeable predictability. Every bit of it is to be celebrated and acknowledged and respected for its place in the beating heart of our lives.
And now, because high tide is a couple of hours away, and the water looks inviting, I'm off to try and catch a wave...
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