A Lesson from Crete

I was halfway through my lunch when the beetle arrived.

At least I think it was a beetle. The length of my palm and the width of two fingers, black and shiny and so very loud as it hovered behind me on tiny wings. 

HOVERED. BEHIND ME. WITH WINGS.

(Some context: I was recently on holiday in Crete. We landed into the chaos of Chania airport late at night, and had a stomach-churning drive across winding, mountainous roads to Rethymno. The locals drove recklessly, overtaking on single lanes, speeding into the night as our car clung to the hard shoulder.

Within a few sun-kissed days I realised everyone was warm and welcoming. Their hosting prowess extended to food: at our first restaurant we were stuffed after the starters. As it turns out, you get free desserts in most places. And raki. Amazing.)

Back to the winged monstrosity…

We’d stopped at a taverna overlooking Lake Kournas for lunch. It was a hot day – as it had been every day of our holiday – the sheen of sweat coating my skin like a personal wetsuit. The occasional hot gusts of breeze provided little relief.

LakeKournas

The view of Lake Kournas from the taverna, Crete

We’d ordered the usual starters, and grilled lamb and moussaka as mains.

Then the beetle arrived.

I shrieked, hunched my shoulders, leaning as far away as I could without actually leaving my chair. A lone middle-aged Greek man at a table nearby chuckled into his beer as the waitress scurried over. 

When she saw the gigantic insect that was definitely about to land on me, she laughed.

“Just a beetle,” she said reassuringly.

“Just?!” I spluttered.

“A special beetle,” she added. “See its tiny wings? How can such a big beetle fly with such small wings?”

It veered closer and I flinched. The waitress gently wafted a menu at the beetle, and it finally droned off. I slowly straightened, alert for the next attack.

“Do you know the answer?” she prompted. When I shook my head, she beamed. “It can fly because it doesn’t know it’s big.”

I forced a smile to hide my confusion, and caught the Greek man nodding at me wisely.

As I picked through the rest of my lamb, I turned her sentence over and over in my head, struggling to make sense of it.

But now that I’ve been thinking about the expectation barrier, I understand.

The beetle flies because it thinks it can fly. It doesn’t stop to worry about its grotesque body size or simple matters like physics. It doesn’t worry about failing. It just flies.

And me?

Lately I’ve been so worried about failing, that I haven’t even tried to write. But who cares if I have tiny wings, and may never attain the heights of Philip Pullman? I need to put that out of my mind, and just write.

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6 thoughts on “A Lesson from Crete

  1. I’ve just read your two last posts in a row. I must tell you, this second one has struck home. I told you (I think I did, at least) that I started writing just to see whether I could do it or not. I guess I didn’t know I could.

    • This post, and my last post, seem to have resonated with other authors too. It’s reassuring to know that we all face the same demons.

      It’s something I’ve been battling with for a few months now, without really talking about it. My own expectations about how perfect and amazing my writing needs to be, had killed my mojo.

      I chatted about it to MCM via email who pointed out that ultimately I don’t need to write something “good”, just something “marketable”. Lol.

      Ultimately we should just do things without worrying or restricting ourselves with expectations. Better to try than never get off the ground.

      • I also can relate on another level. What I cannot seem to engage in is something long. I keep writing short stories (more than a hundred in over a year is not that bad, I guess) but cannot bring myself to write a planned long story. The feeling is that I cannot do it. I’ve already pantsed one before, but I keep doubting my capacity to plan-write another one.

        I’ll have to think of the giant bug, I guess! :)

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