Herman Melville in his classic, Moby Dick, wrote about Captain Ahab's impassioned, myopic search for the white whale. It is a great symbol of the cosmic conflict between good and evil, light and darkness. Melville notes that when a whale is sighted there is much frenzied activity: deckhands scurry about, boats are lowered, men begin rowing and sweating, one man stands and the back of the boat shouting orders. But there's another who remains still, uninvolved, distant.
He is the harpooner.
His job is to be quiet and poised and ready to launch his weapon into the belly of the beast at the exact time. His window is very, very small. The primary reason the harpooner does not involve himself in the cyclone of activity, is that he may more effectively release his harpoon. He must be still so that he can hit the bullseye.
Let me suggest to you, Dear Writer -- you are that harpooner.
Yes, our journeys are different. But, like you, I sail the seas in search of some strange, mythical beast. Maybe it's an idea, an image, a story, a unique spin on a tired theme. But the salt air's in our face and our eyes are fixed on the horizon...and we're looking for that single white fin.
Time out. May I splice this?
Quail hunting is quite different from whale hunting. But the principle's the same. Here you have a guy with a vest, creeping through the brush, with a loaded gun in his hand. His steps are slow, methodical. He is not in a hurry or he may scare the fowl critters. The hunter is ferreting out birds cowering in the reeds, fully prepared to drop 'em.
Friends, this is the image of an artist.
You may write or draw or shape, but every day, you must load your weapon and trudge into the sticks, poised and ready. Every day, you must sit yourself in the crow's nest, eyes peeled on the horizon, looking for that white fin splitting the turquoise blue. And not only must we rouse ideas from the brush, but once they surface, once they skate to the skies, we must summon our faculties to shoot them dead on the spot, pierce them with our trusty harpoon and imprison them in our work.
But where do ideas lurk? Where does the mutant quail nest? It is where you're at right now, reading this. Shh. Listen. Is your gun cocked? Is your harpoon poised on your shoulder? For today, the white quail rises.