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Writing is like a dragonfly…

Posted by on May 31, 2010

I  know, some of you are thinking, this lady is crazy! How is writing like a dragonfly?  Well, I’m going to tell you.

My family and I went up to Pittsburg, NH this Memorial Day weekend. The three older boys were fishing with my husband and I was on shore with my youngest, having paddled the canoe for a couple of hours, on break. We were standing at the lakeshore when we saw these strange looking bugs crawl right out of the water and head for land. Luckily, I knew that dragonflies began their life in the water as eggs and proceeded to live underwater as nymphs, until one day they crawl onto dry land and change into a dragonfly. I had never seen this transformation. I had never seen a dragonfly nymph crawl out of the water, but deep down inside I knew that I was about to witness a monumental moment of change.

I ran headlong for the car to get my camera.

head out

The dragonfly head emerges.

Once the nymph made it onto shore it found a sunny spot. It took about fifteen minutes for the exoskeleton to dry out. Every once in a while it’s tail would flick. Then, all of a sudden two orange colored eyes would pop out–much larger than the eyes of the nymph.

He struggles free.

Slowly, the dragonfly would struggle out of it’s exoskeleton. First his head appears, then his back. If you look really closely on his back, you can see some brighter colored green–almost looks as if he’s rolled in a bit of pollen–those are his wings! Or…they will be.

Finally, after another fifteen minutes,

he’s out! It took a lot of struggle to be free.

Whew! That was a lot of work!

His wings slowly unfurl.

His wings start to unfurl.

Watching his wings unfurl took the longest amount of time, but it was worth watching. I kept thinking to myself, how  many people have seen a dragonfly break free from it’s “shell”? To be there when the moment happens? This is the point where I had the other thought– Dragonflies are like writing. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

And they are still going!

All dried out and ready to fly!

All dried out and ready to fly!

Above, his wings continue to unfurl until finally they unfold and he begins to vibrate them. This took a couple of hours, and even when he tried to fly a while later, he didn’t get very far. He was new to this flying thing and all, you know. I’m sure within another few hours, and a little practice, he was flying like a pro.

As writers our stories crawl out of the waters of imagination. They warm up in the sunshine in our minds until the exoskeleton is brittle enough to break through. Sometimes it’s a struggle. Sometimes our stories have to flick their tails. Sometimes our legs don’t want to pull free. But eventually our characters and their story break free and our writing wings unfurl. This is a monumental moment of change. A story  may have been in its nymph stage for a month, or six months or six years, until one day you read something, or see something, or experience something that makes it crawl out of the water, bask in the sun and struggle free.

That’s how writing is like a dragonfly. = )

12 Responses to Writing is like a dragonfly…

  1. Ansha Kotyk

    DD and I just read your story… Now she knows all about how dragonflies become dragonflies. She loved your pictures. And your story was great!
    I personally liked the part about the writing, but I love learning new things too. Especially about dragonflies!

  2. jennifercarson

    Thanks, Nat! It was amazing to see– and I have a whole bunch of photos of the process = ) It was hard to choose which ones to share!

  3. George Ingram

    Nice Blog Jen.

    Yes I agree, there are many similarities between the two. What I like most of all, is if we don’t have the patience to stay with it until the end ….. We will never see it in it’s most beautiful state ….. and much like a dragonfly, it will never get a chance to fly.

  4. jennifercarson

    You are so right, George. And I believe that sums up my feelings about the process of writing in “nymph” shell. = )

  5. Anne Carey

    So cool! I had never known that about the dragonfly! Learn something new every day! The writing process certainly does resemble the transformation of a dragonfly…never thought of it that way! Way to think outside the box!

  6. Laura Pauling

    I don’t think I even knew the dragonfly started out in water. Learn something knew every day! Great pix.

  7. Kris

    Jen – that’s incredible! I never knew that about dragonflies, and it’s the coolest thing ever! Great post!

  8. Sandy B.

    Very nice! My son would be ashamed to hear that I didn’t know about the water part…. but we won’t tell him. It’s an amazing experience to watch a transformation.

  9. jennifercarson

    Reblogged this on Jennifer Carson and commented:

    One of my first blog posts, thought I’d share it again for those you didn’t get to read it before!

  10. Fiona

    I’m glad you reblogged this, Jennifer, because it’s a great metaphor and it’s still true today. It does take time for writing to break out of its shell, and that moment when it all comes together is so satisfying. I imagine the dragonfly must be satisfied too after all that! What a wonderful post!

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