Walt Whitman wrote a poem called A Noiseless Patient Spider. It reads:
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
This spider and writers are so similar. We stand, isolated in so many ways, casting out our words like the gossamer thread. We have a desire to connect with others, to share what is inside us. Just as the
spider takes the time to launch forth “filament, filament, filament”, the stories in us take time and effort. They have the same combination of strong – anything that has been refined like a story has to be – but there is also something delicate at the same time.
My husband spent a few years in England, where there are spiders that will attach their webbing to some permanent structure and build up a bit of a length before launching themselves into the wind. He said that all through the midlands where he lived, small glimpses of web could be seen in the sunlight, that when it rained, droplets of water would be suspended along these tentative lines of trust. Spiders drifted along the free flying web, a thrill-ridden experience to be sure, until its webbing landed somewhere deemed appropriate to settle down.
There is a reason so many people, when asked about a life goal, say they want to write a book. It is the third “S” of survival – we need shelter, sustenance, and stories. Stories allow our filaments to form into places of belonging. Shelters may crumble, sustenance mold and rot away, but stories have staying power. They form the bridges between the spheres of thoughts, emotions and experience, and join us to each other in a intricate web of humanity.
When in the thralls of outlining, drafting, revising and submitting, it would do us good to take a moment every once in a while to sit back, be still, and marvel at what we have created. There are great revelations possible when we give ourselves the opportunity to be a little bit noiseless and a little bit patient.
Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and high school English teacher. Her days involve running kids around town, Diet Coke, small amounts of chocolate (more when necessary) and conversations with herself. She writes Women’s Fiction, listens to lots of classical music and is an editor for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly newsletter.