The day after Thanksgiving, my ten-year-old son and I took a walk through the Reed College Canyon, a sacred wild place that is practically in our back yard.
I’d told him about my favorite pond full of algae where the ducks like to hang out. As we turned the bend and the small body of water came into view, my son laughed.
“That’s not algae, Mom, that’s duckweed! It’s a plant ducks like to eat.”
An enthusiastic naturalist and patient teacher, my son led me to the pond’s edge, found a stick, and swished it around in the water to show me how the top layer of green was actually a mass of tiny, flowering plants that somehow stay alive on the surface of still water.
“Isn’t it remarkable that the ducks are literally swimming in their food?” I asked my son.
“It seems perfectly natural to me,” he responded.
Such a refreshing assumption—that it’s perfectly natural to have everything we need, right here and now.
I thought: What if we’re all swimming in duckweed, and we don’t even know it?
And how would it change our (writing) lives if we did know it?
I recalled some of the triumphs I’d heard from my community of writers lately: people dedicating their first 20 waking minutes to morning pages; people carving out space to write thousands of words per day as part of NaNoWriMo; people with generous partners and children who handle household tasks on a regular basis, so they can write; people plotting out highly successful writing projects and careers on napkins in five-minute margins before school pick-up.
And yet, we’re so often focused on what we lack and what’s in our way, instead of on how much we already have and are accomplishing.
What if we all have exactly the right pen, plot, inspiration, circumstance, and skillset to do the work we are here to do—right now? What if everything about our lives is already enough?
What if our primary opportunity is to notice that we’re swimming in duckweed, let ourselves be nourished by it, and be grateful?
What if it were perfectly natural to write what we’re here to write—in as much time, with as much effort, as it takes. What if it’s the water we are already swimming in?
I’d love to hear about the duckweed you’re swimming in! Please, please, please, tell us about everything that’s going right in your writing life in the comments below!
Thank you for this post. It has revelled me another perspective of what I am living right now. This past three weeks, I’ve been feeling sorry for myself about not being able to write like I use to (more than 1 hour per day). I have PTSD and I have a hard time lately. My anxiety level is high again because I’ve been confronted with triggers and my cognitive capacity has almost vanished. I realize that I’ve been focusing on what I don’t have. So, now, I can see that I have time to breathe, time to heal, time to take care of myself, time (20 minutes) to write and a wonderful “Fierce Writing Life Mandala” to draw each time I write. Thank you for the mandala, it’s helping me to see each little step I take to complete my novel. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Hi, Gabrielle! Very sorry to hear about your PTSD and the difficulties it presents. I’m so thrilled to hear that you are giving your attention to what IS possible, and what you DO have, right now! And celebrating with the mandala along the way!! Well done! It’s great to be traveling with you.
I am gradually working through 3 workbooks related to my soul care. Some of the lessons and insights overlap and others complement the other perspectives.
I have friends that process verbally. They must talk to digest and deal with their many inputs. That is not my way. But I serve them as a concerned listener.
My way to process is to mind map online and to write.
As I read the workbooks I underline key words and passages. I draw stars and make notes in the margins.
Then when I am ready I go back to those parts that I marked before. I put those on to online mind maps or write a blog post that I might share on Facebook, Medium, and email to key persons.
The painful thoughts and feelings are best processed by writing on paper. There is greater release in that method.
I am grateful for this article that helps me notice that I am swimming in duckweed.
Here is my duckweed. I have lots of blank spiral notebooks and legal pads for my Morning Pages and junk discharging. I have come to like pencils rather than pens. And this year I found the Blackwing pencil by Palomino. Look it up and the videos about it. https://palominobrands.com/blackwing/ I keep several sharpened Palomino pencils by my desk and reading chair.
Years ago I would write my creative inspirations on index cards. But it got to where I was using 100s a month. This year I have shifted to taking regular printer paper. I fold it lengthwise. Then I have four long notes per sheet.
I had used various online mind mapping services. The one that I found that works for me is Comapping https://comapping.com/ . I have dozens of large and small mind maps there. I invest hours each week using that service to process my research, plans, outlines, inspirations, and more.
Yesterday I began another comap. But very soon I noticed that this would be far larger and more involved than any I had made before. I recalled an online service that had researched years ago. I will be learning and using it. There is another learning curve to mount yet I expect that will be worthwhile. This duckweed is The Brain Cloud Services https://www.thebrain.com/products/cloudservices
When I have a huge and complex writing project I have found that Gingko App https://gingkoapp.com works for me.
When the Internet was young I had to pay monthly for a clunky website to store and share my articles. Now I have several blogs for different purposes and audiences for free.
I am retired and living alone with a decent retirement income. I recall when Selectric typewriters displaced White Out. I recall the thrill of the first time I sent a small test document from a first generation word processor to the printer and could choose how many copies to make instead of needing to go to the photocopier. I recall when my initial creative writings were sent to friends using snail mail so when email came along I was excited not to need to buy postage stamps.
The last kind of duckweed for me is Grammarly app https://app.grammarly.com/ Tat free app helps me write better daily.
My gray hairs and bumpy journey helps me to appreciate the abundance of duckweed I have every day.
This is so fantastic, John! So much duckweed! Thank you for telling me/us about your good fortune, your historical perspective, and your favorite strategies and tools for writing. Here’s to the feast!
What a great story — and a timely reminder for me. Thank you!
My pleasure, Bethany! Happy swimming to you!!
I keep a journal where I jot down my ideas. Sometimes I end up condensing my thoughts but I call that an exercise in conciseness.
Im from china just read u book writing the life poetic
Thanks for saying hello, Martin! It’s good to have you with us.