Successfully flying a balsa wood airplane requires a lot from an 8 year old: a general understanding of aerodynamics, patience, a light touch, and a grasp of the concept of “less is more.” While assembling the fragile plane was easy, and I followed the instructions to the letter, I rarely achieved a long flight. After a nose dive into the grass, I’d go back over the positioning of the wings, tail, wheels, and propeller. Everything would check out ok, and I’d launch again. Another erratic, short flight.
It didn’t occur to me that my over-winding of the propeller (which was connected to a rubber band beneath the plane) could have anything to do with my poor performance. Rather, I assumed that the more I wound and wound, the higher and longer flight I would have. I’d wind the propeller to the point I would have knots in the rubber band, before finally releasing the plane into the air.
My older brother took pity on me and showed me that by winding the propeller just enough and letting the wind take the plane from my hand (rather than my method of slinging my arm with enormous, forward force), I could achieve the flight of my dreams.
I was simply amazed that the machine would do the work with far better results if I were to simply get out of the way.
Flash forward four decades to a long-overdue breakfast with a friend. I was excitedly chatting away about my plans to FINALLY write my book. My lifelong dream was going to be realized at last, and I had ideas jumping inside my skull like magic beans. I was off to the beach to write my book! And I was going to knock it out in a month!
My sweet friend, who knows me incredibly well, gave me a look of concern from across the table.
“Uh oh,” I thought.
He retrieved a napkin and a pen and began sketching. As he drew, he spoke with a voice of kind authority and raised his eyes to mine:
“Don’t make your book project a goal. Or some kind of destination of getting from A to B. Relinquish control of what the reader takes from the book … write to write and write to share experiences. Don’t put it in a box of time. Susie, just let it be a journey of discovery. See where it takes you and for however long it takes you.”
I exhaled and knew immediately he was 100% correct. I was about to march forward, plane in hand (wound beyond recognition), and sling it into the wind with brute force. That book was going to be done in a month, by golly!
If my friend had not intervened, I would have nose dived, for sure. Even worse, I would have completely missed the magic of the process. The little mysteries of how things unfold on their own timetable. The twists and turns from an original idea to the better idea. The getting lost in the work entirely without worry if I’d find my way out or through. The stepping along the shoreline with broad perspective, while maintaining the ability to catch glimpses of tiny objects, only partially exposed from the sand, shimmering in sun.
Like the annoying parent at the children’s performance with the video camera in front of her face, I would have missed the whole thing!
Now, away at the beach, I have settled into a routine of a morning smoothie, journaling, meditation, a beach walk with my dog, a gentle writing session, lunch, another session of writing, and one more beach walk. I let the ideas generated from the day bump into each other while I cook dinner, and if something new surfaces as a result, I jot it down. I am letting the process unfold on its own, and I am slowly picking up the trail of where the book wants to go.
Time now feels that it is passing at half speed; my heart rate, too, has hit a slow rhythm of ebbs and flows. Everything is happening, and yet nothing is happening. I am in a state of bouyant wonderment.
I turn the propeller a few rotations and let it spin freely. Maybe the plane will fly today, or maybe it won’t. It will be fun to see what happens when I step aside and let the wind take it from my hand.