Five hundred motivational essays for writers – and counting

 In Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog

Five hundred motivational essays for writers – and countingOur most ancient origins lie in the sea. Palaeontologists and archaeobiologists tell us that two billion years ago, give or take an eon, the first self-replicating molecule somehow assembled itself in a primordial sea. For the next one and a half billion years, life evolved in the oceans.

Is it just poetic fancy that leads me to imagine that it is this early association with the oceans that accounts for the importance of water as a symbol of birth, growth and possibility*?

Water – in the form of rivers and streams – has, since my childhood, promised me both adventure and repose.

As a boy of ten, I often paddled a rowing boat in a lagoon on the Cape’s south coast. A little later in a canoe I explored the willow-shadowed waters of the Klip River south of Johannesburg. As a student in Leeds, I watched with envy narrowboats ply the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Thirty years later, Trish and I, after several tentative expeditions on rented boats, bought our own narrowboat, called Patience, and over the next sixteen years explored many of the canals and rivers that meander endlessly through England and Wales.

Five hundred motivational essays for writers – and counting

I have tried to capture the lessons I’ve learned on those journeys in my Monday meditations. Many of those lessons have been literary. Others have had, I hope, a more general application, reflections, so to speak, on our lives on this watery planet. And just as life can prove instructive and amusing, so some of these little essays have reflected the ironies and the humour of incidents and events that have punctuated our aquatic journeys.

Why this extended recapitulation of a narrative with which many of you are already familiar? Because this very piece is the 500th since I began writing them.

That’s more than ten years’ worth of sometimes idle – though sometimes useful and sometimes entertaining – thoughts.

For the next several weeks, until the break I take for breath every year at this time, I will seek to explore the most productive, shall I say, of the observations and insights these years on the water have yielded.

As I write this, our swans are watching their fully grown cygnet flap its way up and down the main channel that runs between the fleets of boats moored up on either side of the lake.

I wrote a piece a year ago about the cygnets on the lake learning to fly, and what that could teach us about the virtues of doggedness and perseverance. Last year there were seven cygnets; this year only one survived the giant pike that lurks in the lake.

What strikes me now is the pattern that the slow cycling of the seasons imposes on the lake and its inhabitants, both human and avian. The way in which nature repeats itself, with variation, year after year. (The tragedy of global warming is that it threatens variation without repetition.)

This year unusually heavy rainfall has caused the level of the lake to rise earlier than usual; the water is richly laced with topsoil, which has turned it a delicate khaki.

Repetition with variation.

It is, I daresay, the universal pattern, repeated in nature and in art.

Some time in the next week or two, the cygnet will find itself aloft, hurtling towards a future to which all its forebears have travelled: a reflection of what’s gone before, and at the very same time, entirely different.

Happy writing,


* Not to mention ambiguity, transience and mystery.


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