High above the forest floor, a millipede strolled along the branch of
a tree, her thousand pairs of legs swinging in an easy gait. From
the tree top, song birds looked down, fascinated by the synchronization of the millipede's stride. "That's an amazing talent," chirped
the songbirds. "You have more limbs than we can count. How do
you do it?" And for the first time in her life the millipede thought
about this. "Yes," she wondered, "how do I do what I do?" As she
turned to look back, her bristling legs suddenly ran into one
another and tangled like vines of ivy. The songbirds laughed as the
millipede, in a panic of confosion, twisted herself into a knot and
fell to the earth below.
You too may sense this panic. I know that when confronted
with a rush of insights even the most experienced writer can be
knocked off stride. Fortunately, my father's fable had an Act Two:
On the forest floor, the millipede, realizing that only her pride was
hurt, slowly, carefully, limb by limb, unraveled herself. With
patience and hard work, she studied and flexed and tested her
appendages, until she was able to stand and walk. What was once
instinct became knowledge. She realized she didn't have to move at
her old, slow, rote pace. She could amble, strut, prance, even run
and jump. Then, as never before, she listened to the symphony of
the songbirds and let music touch her heart. Now in perfect command of thousands of talented legs, she gathered courage and, with
a style of her own, danced and danced a dazzling dance that
astonished all the creatures of her world.
Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Keep
Story at hand. Use what you learn from it as a guide, until command of its principles becomes as natural as the talent you were
born with. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk
rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories
told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly.
Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.
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