Saturday, October 6, 2012

Writers & Leaving the Nest


I recently heard how eagles build their nests. As the story goes, the eagles build their nests with stones and sticks, and then soften it with bits of feathers. Their babies grow in this nest, and as they near the stage when they're supposed to leave, the parents start pulling away the soft bits of feathers.

These babies aren't meant to stay in the nest. They're meant to fly.

I'm no expert on the subject of eagles' nests, and I don't know how true this story is, but I couldn't help but think about my own children. Like most parents, I hope my sons will be well-prepared when it's time to leave the nest.

But then I thought beyond that. I thought about the characters in our stories, and about us as writers, and how sometimes discomfort is the best thing for us.

When I think about writing fiction, I need to keep reminding myself to make my characters uncomfortable. Loving comfort the way I do, and the way I'm sometimes naive, it's not always easy to push the boundaries and make my characters squirm and take broken paths. I need to remind myself that my characters need to be pushed out of their nests so they can fly.

I love comfort. Who doesn't? Comfort food. Comfortable bed. Comfortable home. But one of the best things that ever happened to me was to be laid off from a comfortable job. It set it motion a string of events that would allow me to stay home with our children, and eventually pursue publishing. Had I not been forced out of my job, I probably wouldn't have left. In a way, I was pushed out of the nest.

As writers, it's intimidating to push ourselves out of the nest. We don't have someone picking away the soft feathers for us, nudging us to the edge. We must do it ourselves. It's not always easy to write from the heart and then send our work out to be picked apart or rejected by critique partners, agents, editors, or readers.

But we do it anyway. We summon our courage, hold our breath, and take that leap. Like eagles, and like our children and our characters, we too were meant to fly.

Is it hard for you to take leaps of faith? Do you stick with what's comfortable instead of taking risks? What nudged you to pursue publishing?

photo credit

25 comments:

  1. I admit, I'm sticking with what is comfortable to me, because it's also what worked.
    And I recently learned that eagles do not tear down any part of their nest - they keep adding to it, making it bigger and bigger. (At least bald eagles do anyway.)

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    1. Alex, comfort is great. I'm a big fan :)

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  2. Great post, Julie. I often think of the biblical phrase "as an eagle stirreth up her nest" when I'm in conflict with my teens. I remind myself that, at some point, home is supposed to become just a little bit uncomfortable for them, ensuring that they leave when it's time.

    I will now start applying that phrase to my fictional teens as well. :)

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    1. Linda, I know what you mean. If things are too comfortable, then why leave?

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  3. Nice article, thanks for the information.

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  4. I don't have a problem making my characters uncomfortable, their lives are hell! But, me? I loves my comfort. Every time I let someone read my work, I have serious discomfort. It sucks. It's hard for me. But I guess pursuing publishing gets me out of my nest too:)

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    1. I'm also super uncomfortable when someone reads my work!

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  5. what a lovely post, Julie! Did you hear about the "Eaglecam" in Iowa? There was a camera on an eagles' nest high in a tree and it was fascinating to watch the momma and poppa eagles care for their babies. I didn't know that part about removing the feathers to make the nest uncomfortable, but that makes total sense. I think one reason parents and teens fight so much is to make both want the teen to get the hell outta there!

    I'm like Michele--I have a sick pleasure in torturing my characters, but I certainly complain when MY life becomes uncomfortable. ;-)

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    1. Oooh, eagle cam! I'll have to check that you. Thanks for the tip.

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  6. The timing of this post couldn't be better for me. I'm standing on the precipice of major change, getting ready to make that leap into being a full time writer. Thank you, your post helped me and inspired me!

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    1. Oh, Heather, I'm sure that's so scary. Good luck to you!

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  7. What brought me into this crazy word or writing? I live by the philosophy - "You never know until you try." It brings a lot of smack downs, but it also takes me to places and people I never would have known that have made my life all the richer.

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    1. That's a great philosophy, Leslie. It's true. We won't know unless we try!

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  8. The more we ask Our Father in Heaven to lead us, the more the feathers get pulled. Our paths are not always easy, but neither is climbing a mountain or learning to fly.

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  9. Hi, Julie. Thought provoking post. I think I do stick with what is comfortable, instead of taking risks.

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    1. Susanne, I'm the same way. I admire people who take risks with ease.

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  10. I was forced out of my job too and that's what led me back to writing again. At the time I was so upset about losing the income, but now I've come to find that it forced me to find a new path, a new way, a happier me. Yeah, eagles.

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    1. Traci, that's amazing. Isn't it funny how life works sometimes? I'm glad you're on this path :)

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  11. That's a good question, Julie. I love putting my characters in uncomfortable and dangerous positions. I love killing off supporting characters, too. I guess I'm just mean that way.

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  12. It's a great analogy. As a mom who recently pushed my baby bird from the nest, I can say that it's been really good for him. As for me, my situation was similar to yours. My business slowly dried up & I was bored. So I started writing. Then when punishing looked like a good idea, I built my nest on knowledge & research until my ms was just right. I pushed that baby from the nest a little early but it eventually learned to fly. Guess we'll see how well next week.

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  13. Modern society seems to be coddling the young more and more. Kids appear more spoilt than I remember my own genration being, although maybe that's just wishful thinking.

    Very interesting post.

    mood
    Moody Writing

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  14. It's hard, and I usually spend loads of time "researching" the problem/procrastinating. LOL!

    But I recently took a huge leap. Here's hoping it takes off~ :o) <3

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