Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Brave Little Mushroom

I went for a nice hike the other day in a nearby state park and came across this little guy: 

Now, you can't really tell from that picture because I was too chicken to get close to the edge, but this mushroom is in a very precarious position. It's growing on a small outcropping of tree roots and moss, hovering over a drop of probably 100 feet or more. As a matter of fact, here's what a view of the mushroom's home looks like from within the cave it grows on:

That should give you an idea of why I was so uncomfortable trying to get a good picture of the mushroom. I'm terrified of heights to begin with, but add to that its questionable perch and the slippery leaves surrounding it and there's a snowball's chance in hell.

Regardless, I kept thinking about that little mushroom all through the rest of my hike. I guess, in a way, I somehow felt like this fungus was my kindred (says a lot about me, huh?) But I also found it downright inspiring. Here was a living thing, taking a risk, trusting its small tubular body to keep it from falling over as it strained to see over the edge.

We take a lot of chances as writers. We take a chance on an idea, or maybe a character. We take a chance in starting something that will be incredibly hard to finish. We take a chance in putting a metric ton of ourselves into something that consumes us. We take a chance in sending this piece of ourselves out into the world to be judged, critiqued, rejected, and - hopefully - accepted.

Right now I am in the process of submitting to agents. My little mushroom friend and I are both sticking our necks out, taking a risk, hoping that the risk will pay off and we'll get a little slice of sunlight.

But you know, it's not so dangerous to lean over the side of a mountain if you know you have strong roots. If you've worked hard, studied the craft, revised until it's the best it can be, you've got a great foundation that will let you stick your neck out just a little bit more, and maybe, just maybe, you'll feel that sunshine on your face.

I'm a little in love with this metaphor, and I'd love to hear from you about your own mushroom risks and roots. Where are you in the writing process? What's giving you the foundation to take a risk?

(This song by Josh Groban is totally appropriate for this discussion even though it examines it from the angle of letting yourself go and taking the risk of falling in love. So maybe the falling aspect is a bit of a mixed message but whatevs. It's beautiful. Just listen. And if you'd rather go with this metaphor, run with it. I'm listening.)


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