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Suffering optional. Pass the chocolate.

As I sail through one green light after another on my way to an appointment, I think of that magical day last summer, out on the lake by myself in a dark green canoe.

I’m sitting in the bow, facing backwards so my weight is centred. The paddling has been a bit challenging, a stiff wind blowing one way, the current flowing the other way. It’s hard to make much headway, but I’ve persisted around the perimeter of the lake.

As I turn towards home, a straight run across the width of the lake, the wind shifts so it’s behind me, with the current running the same way. Paddling takes hardly any effort at all now, the canoe leaping forward with each dip and pull of the paddle, responsive to the slightest twist of the paddle to stay on course.

The best part is when I nail the landing. It’s perfect this time. The final pull of the paddle creates exactly enough momentum to propel the canoe all the way to shore, cleanly and silently until we slide to a halt in the sand, with a small crunch and an even smaller bump, precisely where I’ve aimed it, far enough up the beach that the water barely even covers my feet when I get out.

As I step onto dry land, I hear the distinctive screech of an osprey overhead. I look up and marvel at how she rides the thermals, wings fully outspread to pick up the slightest movement of air and heat. She makes it look easy, effortless. I don’t know how effortless it actually is, but I do see how little movement it takes to bank into the curve of the circle she’s making over the lake.

Osprey, canoe, the green lights. These are the things that come to mind as I settle myself with notebook and pen for a few minutes of writing practice.

What do they have in common? How are they related to writing?

It occurs to me that writing feels smooth and easy most days, sometimes landing perfectly, coming to a satisfying ending; sometimes soaring like an osprey, coming up with a fish flopping in my talons; sometimes sailing through green lights, not fast, but just in time, steady and easy. There’s no friction, just one thought flowing into the next, triggering another and another and another. My inner critic snoozes in the back seat as I write them all down indiscriminately, in a state of “flow” that makes me lose track of time, space and who I am; and the writing writes itself without much interference from me.

It was not always so.

Writing used to be frustrating, difficult, and to be avoided until the very last minute. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’d convinced myself I hated the process. Focusing only on the product and on having that product ready by the deadline, I couldn’t allow myself to slow down enough to actually experience the process fully. I often felt like I was running flat out and smacking into a brick wall, over and over again, unable to stop and unable to break through.