As Whales Do
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
Gina Greenlee photo:
Whale watching on New Zealand’s Kaikoura Coast, June 2000
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Years ago, while still new in my journey of teaching myself to play with writing, I was editing a manuscript, flat out bored with the opening. I wanted to be anywhere except in front of that first dull sentence. Time for walk! A scooter ride! Let’s make paper dolls!
Then I remembered: I’d had plenty of experience with this stage of writing – a complete but cloudy first draft. I reminded myself that once I delved into it, the shimmer of gemstone beneath the surface would propel me through each round of polish.
Pain in writing comes from skimming the surface. You know you’re not where the good stuff lives.
Dive deeply enough into your writing and that focused intensity will obliterate any blocks –anxiety and rumination – on your path.
Though whales live in water, they are marine mammals, not fish whose gills extract oxygen directly from water. Our fellow mammals can submerge underwater for up to 90 minutes before surfacing to inhale oxygen. But surface they must. Why? Like humans, whales have lungs and breathe air.
Baby whales must learn to swim the minute they are born so they can surface to take their first big breath.
Also, whales and humans share these ancestral attributes:
Birth their young (gestate internally versus laying eggs outside the body).
Possess milk-producing glands to nurse their babies.
Human ultradian cycles – natural energy rhythms throughout the day – allow us to focus deeply for 90 minutes without distraction. When writing, engage this primordial connection with our mammalian cousins:
Once there, stay. For 90 minutes.
Bring your questions directly to the writing.
There you will find sustenance and your story will reveal itself – in structure, content and style.
Do not fear drowning. Like our mammalian relatives who feed on nutrients from depths below, you may resurface when you choose.