Saturday, January 01, 2011

A New Year-A New Tack

By Keith N Fisher

On New Years Eve, 1979-80, I set the four digit point counters on a pool table to match the dates. It was, perhaps, a foolish gesture, but I was in a melancholy mood. I sank the last ball in the game I was playing with myself and sat down to analyze my life.

It seems we, as humans tend to use events like birthdays and the first day of the year to make goals to become better than we are. On that evening, I made plans that eventually changed my life. This year, I will, again be rehashing my values and making course corrections with the end result in mind.

Several years ago, I learned how to navigate a sailboat. The fascination of being part of nature, part of the wind, still clings to my spirit and makes me smile. I found you can’t just point the bow toward the harbor and expect to reach it. Well there are times when the wind is blowing just right, but while under sail, you have to use wind direction and plot a course. This usually means employing a process called tacking.

Simply put, tacking is a zigzag pattern that brings you ever closer to shore. You must fill your sail with the available wind and use it to travel toward a point down the shoreline from your goal. Then turn about, point the bow the other way, catch what wind you can, and tack the other way.

The secret is in keeping exactly the best angle to the wind. Really good sailors can catch the maximum amount of wind while keeping the boat moving in just the right direction. They also learn how to split the sails and adjust them for maximum trim. Yes, there is a science to it, or maybe art and I don’t pretend to be a master, but I’ve seen people who are.

This zigzagging course makes for a longer trip than if you were in a motor boat, but if you’re part of nature, who cares about distance and time.

Many of us in our New Years self-evaluation realize the winds have changed. We sit there with our sails fluttering in the wind or we find we’ve changed course and we’re moving away from the harbor. At those times we must find a new harbor, or turn the bow to catch the wind, take a new tack.

Writing, for me, is a lot like sailing. I know where the harbor is but tacking to get there is hard and most times I find myself with floppy sails, not going anywhere or in a lull with no wind at all. During good times, though, I find the wind at my back. I’m able to set a course directly toward the harbor.

On the boat, having the wind at your back is almost like being wind. The sensation is awesome. Sometimes when I’m writing, and I’m in the zone, words and sentences flow from my fingertips almost as if I’m part of the story. Then, there are the other times when I need to plot a course. I need to work hard to arrive at the harbor. Through it all, writing brings me peace. Not unlike the peace I felt while sailing.

I hope your life tack will bring you where you want to be. May your writing go well, and bring you the joy you seek.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.


Danyelle Ferguson said...

Great thoughts, Keith. Happy New Year!

Nichole Giles said...

Beautifully put. One more thing I didn't know about you. Not only do I need you to teach me how to make bread, but now I'm going to have to make you teach me how to sail.

Lovely post. Thanks.