Describing the Indescribable (And why I’m Grateful to Stephen King.)

Sometimes I’m thankful for the small things in life: a cuddle from a daughter, a cat or a husband (I only have one of those, but two each of the others!) Actually, I’m pretty thankful I only have one husband: two would be too many! Far too much snoring for a start.

Well now! I had no idea this post was going to take that sort of direction. I thought I was sitting down to write something deep and spiritual, something where I discussed the meaning of life – the purpose of life even. Yet it seems this post has ideas of its own – I first typed porpoise of life instead of purpose.  Actually it’s apt. Apart from cats, which are the best for cuddling, porpoises and their close cousins, the dolphins, have to be my favourite animals. Seeing a dolphin leap makes my spirits soar. It has only happened a few times in my life, but each time – wow, oh wow!

I’m reading Stephen King’s “On Writing,” at the moment. (Review will come next Friday.) He mentions somewhere in the book that people find some experiences so amazing that they are indescribable. He also says that to be “a successful writer, you must be able to describe it and … cause your reader to prickle with recognition.” So now I feel duty bound to describe what it is like to see a dolphin leap.

Okay, I’ll take you on a trip now, off the coast of Chile.

Kitted out with lifejackets, we climbed down a ladder to board a white fibreglass boat. Early morning mist began to clear as we set off, and by the time we reached Choros Island the sun was shining.

“Seawolves,” our guide said, pointing. On the rocks above, sealions yawned and wrapped their flippers around each other.

We went through a narrow archway where our guide pointed to a rocky beach. “Walrus,” he said. We couldn’t see it, and guessed he’d got it wrong again. He probably thought walrus meant: “wall of rocks.” Then one of the rocks waved at us. Except, of course, it didn’t, of course it was a walrus’s flipper.

We chugged back though the archway, and out to the open sea. The guide had promised dolphins, said they were always in the area. We headed in one direction and then another, but the all we could see was the Pacific Ocean. The dolphins weren’t going to come. It was going to be just like the times we went whale watching off New England, and saw none. We scanned the waters all around, hoping to catch a glimpse of fin in the distance. Still nothing.

Suddenly, metres away, dark grey shapes appeared in the water. They’d sneaked up and surprised us. Throughout the boat, people gasped. On one side of me, my elder daughter grabbed my arm. “Oh!” she said. “Oh, look!” Her eyes were shining. I knew she would be feeling the same internal dancing that I did. On the far side of my husband, our younger daughter stretched over for a better look. Dad leaned back, she scrambled towards us. 

The dolphins had come to say hello. There was no other explanation, they could have had any part of the ocean, and they choose the part right next to our boat. Thank you, dolphins, thank you.

And then, after a gentle leap, they were gone. 

I’m not sure if I’ve managed to convey what I wanted to, but I’ve done my best.  I am thankful for dolphins, because even just thinking about them gives me a sense of joy. And yeah, I’m thankful to Stephen King for the push to describe what feels indescribable.

Can you spot the walrus? Answers on a postcard please to: the-ends-of-the-earth.com

Actually, I’m grateful to Stephen King for more this week. I have never read a single one of his novels and don’t know if I ever will, though his book about writing is so good I am now tempted. I guess what I like best is that he agrees with me! Yes, Stephen King says very similar stuff about adverbs that I did about adjectives. And he doesn’t plot his novels. He just gets his idea and then he’s off, letting the novel write itself.

There will be a full review coming on Friday so be sure to book your ticket/seat. Or at least subscribe to be sure you don’t miss out! See, this is me trying to market my blog and I’ll thank you in advance for subscribing. You can do it by email, or you can go to my brand new Facebook Page, where I will be sure to forget – I mean remember to post all the latest updates on my blogs and books. Actually, it’s not really a new FB page, but I’ve only worked out what to do with it just as FB are driving everyone away with their algorithm nonsense. Timing never was my strong point. Still, I’m thankful to have all these ways to connect. And it does have a new photo, which I also posted on my main FB profile and was totally surprised by the number of “likes” received.

Here’s the walrus again so you can have another go at finding it. Clue: it’s near the middle, but, sorry, it is refusing to wave for you.

One last thing about why I’m grateful to Stephen King: reading that he also just lets the story write itself seemed like permission to do what I already do. I’d always slightly worried that this way was  used only by literary writers who sell books in their hundreds instead of their millions. So I had a nagging feeling that maybe I ought to sit down and plot my stories to the nth degree, rein in those wayward characters and make them follow the formula for success. But if not plotting is good enough for Stephen King, it’ll do for me! So yesterday I worked on a short story all morning. I wrote by hand so didn’t even switch on my computer until the first draft was done. Every now and then the story went off in a different direction to my plan and I had a mild panic. (Can panic be mild?) Then I just carried on. The ending was not what I’d expected, and I like that. The story still needs a lot of work, but already I have new ideas for parts of it, and I feel enthused and sparkly about writing fiction again whereas it had begun to feel almost like a struggle.

I have no idea if I’ve reached ten things of thankful, but I’m so utterly delirious with gratitude for the release and relief I’ve felt this week, both about writing and about a long-standing issue (that I will write about sometime but not now) that every thankful feels like a thousand.

If you’d like to join in the Ten Things of Thankful hop, or to read more posts, then click on the button below.

Ten Things of Thankful

And if you’re still hunting for that walrus, let me put you out of your misery.

Comments

  1. Hey! Glad you like the writing book! Stephen King is great, but I guess you’ve got to enjoy his style of pacing the novels…he loves to have a great beginning, a whopper of an ending a take it a little slow in between. BTW, I’m sharing this post

    1. Thanks for sharing Michelle! With Stephen King it’s more that I’m not at all keen on horror. But I gather he has written in some other genres, so I will probably try some of those books out.

  2. I FOUND THE WALRUS ALL BY MYSELF!!! I feel so accomplished!

    We have been to Galveston, Texas, which is an island off the coast of Houston, and taken a ferry across to a point, and dolphins always follow the ferry. So fun to watch! You did an amazing job describing your experience. If Stephen King guided you to write that beautifully, then high five to him!

    1. Yay! Good for you Dyanne! Oh and I am on a plane right now, heading for Houston so I can ride that ferry and then back again, and back again, and… Or I guess I could just go to north Scotland which also has some great viewing points1
      And thank you for your words about my words!

  3. It took a few looks but I found it… whew… tough… anyway.. loved “On Writing.” Dolphins leaping, whales breeching… same fascinating moment! very cool…

  4. You rocked this post. You are a very excellent writer. You need to know I am a top reviewer so in case you were unsure (as if !!! You write with great assurance) now you know. And I don’t think it is 100% thanks to Stephen King although I do hear that that book is very good.
    See you around Amazon, I am sure.
    jean 🙂 thanks for a wonderful entry!

  5. Stephen King’s writing book is the only one of his I’ve read more than once. All his other work freaks me out (which is no doubt what he intended ). Love those dolphins and the walrus pic was great!

    1. LIsa, that’s pretty much why I haven’t read Stephen King’s books – but I have discovered he has some which aren’t horror so I might give them a go. Thanks for your comment.

  6. I found the walrus. And I enjoyed reading about the dolphins. A curious challenge by Mr King, that, but I get it, and I like it a lot. I’ve never read him before. This has my interest somewhat piqued.

    The end of your post has such JOY in it. Whatever happened to make you that thankful, well I’m glad it did 🙂

    1. Good for you Lizzi!
      “On Writing” is definitely worth a read, and doesn’t have any horror in it!

      Joy, yes that’s a good way to describe how I’ve felt these last few days. Just so much freer. I will be writing about it soon, possibly starting tomorrow, though I am busy with some other projects so no sure how it will all go.
      Thanks for your comment!

    1. Well done to you too Sarah. It was a lovely experience, I definitely recommend seeing dolphins in the wild if you ever get the chance.
      Thanks for your comment.

  7. This is a lovely piece of writing! Very nice, so thank you. You sound very thankful and very excited there in the end and that is a very, very good thing!

  8. Wow, I so didn’t think that was the walrus…I totally thought it was the shiny thing down front. Oh, well. Glad that whatever gave you such joy did so – love your ending.

    Have a wonderful week!

    1. I went back and looked at the shiny thing and I can see why you would have thought that. But sadly that’s just a rock. More sealion colour than walrus really now I think of it.
      Thanks for your comment and you have a wonderful week too.

  9. this is odd… I didn’t find the walrus! (no ego implied there, huh?) lol I am also concerned* that I am totally on the same page as Lisa just before me… I went and stared at the moundy shiny things in the foreground.
    I enjoyed the post. I like the concept of letting the story write itself, though the skill level that are required to have something readable when it is done telling…itself is a pretty ambitious..er ambition, for me at this point in time.

    * that is not a negative concerned it is just not that often that something like this happens and all…

    1. We seem to have a shiny corner now Clark! With you and Lisa in it.
      The thing about letting the story write itself is you then go back and do a rewrite. And even then it turns out differently than you plan – which is good. I’m at that stage with my story now. And you keep rewriting until it’s how you like it. Even that bit about the dolphins was a rewrite of something I wrote a few weeks ago and submitted to a newspaper. They didn’t take the first version and when I read it over I could see why. I like this version better.
      Thanks for your comment!

  10. I did find the walrus, but only because there are walrus at our zoo. I knew what color and shape to look for.
    The dolphin is one of my very favorite animal, although, as I see more and more of the world, I’m beginning to realize I simply like seeing animals in their natural habitat. I love seeing animals I’ve only read about up close and personal where they belong. I will never forget the few times I’ve seen dolphins while standing on a pier at the beach during vacations. Or the whales we saw when vacationing in Maine. Or the moose when hiking the mountains of Maine. Or the barracuda in Bermuda. Or the squirrels in my backyard. I loved them all.
    I have read a couple of King’s novels, but they scare the tar out of me. I finally just said I didn’t like King, and then found out some of my favorite movies were based on his books.
    Write however you want, with or without an outline. You’re good at it. (I’m in the middle of “Drawings in the Sand”, so I know.)

  11. Christine, what you say about liking seeing animals in their natural habitat is exactly it. For me it’s just so exciting. I envy you the whales – we went twice and saw none. But yes, I even love the squirrels in our back yard!

    And what you write about King’s novels scaring the tar out of you is why I haven’t read them! I don’t think I’ve seen any of the movies. But “On Writing” is not scary!
    And thank you for reading “Drawings in the Sand!” So glad you think it’s good!

  12. I have not read Stephan king’s book but I like the style you are adapting…this is kinda inspiring me to look out to my fav authors and take notice on their exquisite style that inspires many to pick their books.
    thanks for highlighting the walrus cause I just could not figure it out…lol

  13. Ruchira, I definitely haven’t adopted King’s style! You won’t see any horror stories from me! But his book about writing isn’t scary at all – in fact I do find it reassuring to know that he uses a similar method to the one I do – and that I sometimes doubt. Having said that, I have emulated the styles of authors I admire, both consciously and unconsciously I guess. It is useful, and in the end you only ever write like you!
    Thanks for your comment.

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