Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Are You As Smart as a Sea Snot?

posted by Susan Spann

Happy Wednesday! 

You probably clicked over expecting Dave.

Dave's not here today ... but in his place, allow me to introduce: OSCAR*!

Oscar is my pet abalone (my son calls him "booger of the sea"). Although some species can grow to more than a foot in length, Oscar is small - he measures about 3" from his snout to what passes for a tail. I bought him because I'd heard abalone do a good job eating algae ... and in that task, he doesn't disappoint.

Clearly, Oscar isn't the most attractive beast in my tank. That honor goes to the seahorses, Ghillie, Ceti, and Cygnus.

Oscar isn't the fastest. Thing 1 the pipefish claims that title with ease.

Emperor Maximus Angryfish has the most obnoxious temper,

and Emo the clown is the most territorial fish I've ever known.

In fact, you'd have to go far down the list to find the thing that Oscar does best - but his talent is one no writer can ignore.

The qualities Oscar has (in spades) are patience and fortitude. He spends several hours every day eating algae off the side of the tank, and he works on each spot until it's completely clear. Watching him eat is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but Oscar doesn't care about speed - when he sets out to eat algae, he eats until it's gone.

Some snails eat only the "easy algae" - the looser spots growing closer to the light.

Not Oscar. He's slow, and he's careful, and he does his job well every time.

Wherein lies the lesson for us all. As writers, we want to be pretty. We want to be fast. We sometimes acquire an attitude that makes even Max look pleasant, and too often we let ourselves draw territorial lines based on genre or publishing path.

Instead, we should learn from Oscar. Writing isn't a race, or a contest to see who can puff himself up the largest. It's a marathon filled with easy moments and difficult ones, where patience and perseverance win the day. One bite at a time, he cleans the tank. One word at a time writes a book. So be brave. Be diligent.

Be like Oscar. Focus on improving your writing and getting the job done right.

And here you thought this post was just about abalones. But it' snot.

*People often ask me why I named my abalone Oscar. It's because ..... my (a)balone has a first name, it's O-S-C-A-R...


Julie Luek said...

Sea snot, indeed. Maybe I'll make a sign for my office door: Quiet, abilone laboring.

As for the name explanation ...groan.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I love this post, Susan. Your photos are wonderful, your sense of humor is wonderful, and your ability to relate even sea snot to writers is wonderful. This is an amazing collection of creatures you have. It must be very restful to pull up a chair and just watch.

Susan said...

Thanks, Pat and Julie!

Yes, his name is a groaner. About half of the named creatures in the tank are based on puns (the other half, including the seahorses, are named for stars and other celestial objects).

It amazes me how many lessons on writing I've learned (or noticed, at least) while watching the reef. It's an amazing little ecosystem, for sure.

Heather Webb said...

Oscar, Groaner? A sea of snot is such a lovely image. Ha! I love your fish posts. You're hilarious!

Emily R. King said...

BEST ENCOURAGEMENT POST EVER. I shall be smarter than snot. I'll be patient with myself and go slow. Thanks for the pick-me-up!

Susan said...

Thanks Emily! I'm glad you found it encouraging - all we need to do is keep on moving toward the goal and we WILL all get there!

Chiseled in Rock said...

I laughed out loud at the baloney reference. Nice pick me up. :)


Chiseled in Rock said...

Thanks Dave! Glad you approve of my attempts to cheer people up in your absence!

Laura said...

Thanks for the reminder that it's all about perseverance and patience. I'm off to eat some algae. Metaphorically speaking.