Lessons learned from a bird

Yesterday was a bad day. It wasn’t 911 bad, or death of a family member bad, or Dr. Seuss rising from the dead and starting the zombie apocalypse bad, but it was bad enough to make me question a few things. Mostly the standard writer stuff.

‘Do I really think I’m good enough to write a novel when there are so many good novels out there?’

‘Will the readers like it or will the reviews give it and me a virtual swirly?’

‘When will the writer police finally pull me over in my writing career and say, “Alright, you’re done. Turn in your pen and word processor.”?’

So, yes, despondency was my co-pilot yesterday. And it politely kept whispering to me, ‘Give up this stupid dream. You’re just a truck driver. Deal with it. You’ll never be a novelist.’

You can see that such ‘encouragement’ was making it a happy happy joy joy kind of day. And then something happened that I easily could’ve missed. A small bird flew in front of me. It was one of those little brown birds that are so numerous where I live. This in itself was nothing out of the ordinary, but this bird was carrying an enormous feather nearly three times its size. It had the end in its beak and it was struggling just to stay in the air. It flew only a few feet off the ground and was flapping madly to stay aloft. Finally it lost the battle with gravity and fell into the dirt. It stood, shook the dirt off, and looked at the feather as if deciding if this was really what it wanted to do. And then it picked up the feather and began flapping madly again. It only made it fifteen feet until it crashed to the ground again. Once more it shook off the dirt, picked up the feather, and flew another fifteen feet.

This continued over and over until it reached its nest. With supreme effort, its little wings flapping like mad, it reached the nest.

I sat back in my truck, astounded at the lesson I’d just learned from a small bird that could so easily have been ignored. I had to question myself.

Would I have made it to the nest?

How many of us have that kind of dogged determination?

How many of us are willing to risk being hurt to achieve our ultimate goals?

I’ve thought about that little bird ever since. I left despondency on the side of the road and decided to pattern my own determination after the bird, especially in my writing goals.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Thomas Edison when asked about his failure to make a light bulb.

“I haven’t failed, I found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

I’m glad that he tried the 10,001st time instead of giving up.



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