Now that summer is here, I start my mornings by watering the potted plants on the patio, which always sets the spiders scurrying away. I don't worry about them, because I know they'll come back to their webs and continue spinning and weaving. I do worry about the finches, who love to build their nests in the hanging baskets. I have to find spots to add water so I don't chill the eggs or drown the hatchlings.
Spiders, though, can take care of themselves pretty well.
But it puts me in mind of that old nursery rhyme, the Itsy Bitsy Spider.
The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain, and
The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.
It's a playful song, especially if you add the finger games to it. And it's apparently about fortitude and determination, not letting set-backs keep you down forever.
The thing is, however, it's not a useful metaphor in the end. A spider continues back up the spout mindlessly, by instinct. It has no memory of the rain or ability to conceptualize that it could be washed away again, over and over, even drown in the next deluge. The metaphor fails to take into account the devastating emotional impact of being literally or figuratively washed away.
Lest you all decide I'm overthinking a child's nursery rhyme, I want to point out that these things stick with us. Particularly if we don't examine them. My favorite religious studies professor in college said that most people never grow past a five-year-old's understanding of their religion. By that he meant that we learn the pretty, simple stories, internalize them and never return to ponder their import with the critical analysis and study of an adult mind.
The advice to simply get up again after failure, to just keep going or try, try again! can be more painful than helpful. Especially for creative types, coming back and continuing to offer our art to the world after rejection or failure is not a matter of mindlessly climbing back up the spout. It takes a tremendous effort to experience pain and walk towards it again.
It's not only about waiting for the sun to dry up the rain - it's about finding it in ourselves to overcome fear and be creative anyway.
Keep spinning and weaving, writer friends!
— The Script Lab (@TheScriptLab) June 3, 2015