Ice fishing, I’ve recently discovered, is a lot like writing: You spend a good deal of time standing around doing nothing, waiting for something to come to you, and then scramble madly for thirteen seconds when something bites.
This, and other ideas, floated through my empty head on an ice-fishing trip with wife and my Dad this past week. I was standing on a sheet of frozen ice, shivering in the wind, wishing my wife would catch her first fish so the excited look on her face would warm me up a little, when I peered through the frosty air, at our surroundings. We were on a secluded lake in the British Columbia interior, surrounded on all sides by tree-covered mountains. The clouds above us were a lavender colour in the fading light, and contrasted in a most dramatic way with the snow-covered pine trees below them. There was a story in that scene, I thought to myself as I looked on, and instantly I was yanked away from where I was standing to go on a sudden journey, riding on the wind whistling between my ears.
A story is an empowering thing, I thought later as my wife asked me what I was looking at with my mouth gaping open, a line of drool freezing on my chin. It has the ability to take us anywhere we want to go, or anywhere the author is willing to take us.
I’m not what you would call worldly, but I’ve been to many different places, many different times: I’ve fought the English at Stirling with William Wallace; I have stood on the walls of Constantinople and repelled a horde of Turks screaming for my blood; I have ridden a dragon, stormed the walls of Mordor, and slain strange creatures in the Tower of the Elephant. I have loved, been lusted after, made dumb mistakes and triumphed more than any any single person could ever hope to. I have lived a hundred different lives, and can tell a thousand different tales, all as though they were my own.
This is the power of story. This is why we do what we do.
The power of a good story is such that we can hop on the coat-tails of our favourite author and travel to any destination we damned well please. As a writer we can live any life, any adventure, we can dream up, and, if we are sincere, we can take our reader along with us.
Be warned, however, that sincerity is all important. Do not undertake this craft lightly, or for frivolous reasons; if we do not believe in the path we are walking, how can we expect the reader to believe in it?
When you write, do it with conviction. Do it with belief. Do it with the desire to go on a grand journey and take us all with you.
I guarantee that someone will thank you for it.