Continuing my posts about a writer’s life, I ask myself the question, “Can writing be like visiting the zoo?”
How can visiting a zoo have anything in common with writing, you ask?
While on a recent visit to the San Antonio Zoo, I realized that it had a lot in common with writing. Let me explain
One: Writing is like visiting the zoo because everyone has a favorite animal.
Just like people enjoy specific animals, everyone has a favorite genre (or two or twelve).
Personally, I’ve never found an animal at the zoo I don’t love, but I definitely have my favorites. Lions and tigers and bears are kind of like the bestsellers of the animal world.
They bring people into the zoo like the latest John Grisham gets people into the Barnes and Noble.
But then there are the lesser-known animals, like this snowflake eel. It’s like a book people didn’t even know they would love until they happened to find it on the shelf between the new Lee Child and something by Amy Tan.
” . . . people didn’t even know they would love it until they happened to find it on the shelf between the new Lee Child and something by Amy Tan.”
Two: Writing is like visiting the zoo because it feels sprawling at first glance.
A huge plot of land with so many things to see, it feels insurmountable to do in a day. But on closer reflection, it has great organization.
Animals are grouped by species or country of origin. Walkways move visitors from place to place, missing nothing.
Just like the rewriting process, the visitor finds their way through the park, nothing extraneous, everything leading from the entrance to the exit, like the throughline of a plot.
“. . . the visitor finds their way through the park, nothing extraneous, everything leading from the entrance to the exit, like the throughline of a plot.”
Three: Writing is like visiting the zoo because my favorite moments are often the quiet ones.
As exciting as it is to have the Bengal tiger appear, sometimes it’s being alone in a quiet aquarium watching a tiny seahorse that is truly magical.
Standing in front of the glass, nature gives the reader a gift, just like when simple lines resonate with us the most.
“. . . nature gives the reader a gift, just like when those simple lines sometimes resonate with us the most.”
Four: Writing is like visiting the zoo because sometimes the location makes itself known.
Just as writers are impacted by their geography, the San Antonio Zoo is currently overrun with Black Vultures. The big carrion eaters perch on, if not inside, various exhibits.
Writers enchant readers by taking them to various locations they would otherwise know nothing about, just as the clouds of black vultures fascinated me.
“Writers enchant readers by taking them to various locations they would otherwise know nothing about. “
Five: I love a good book. I love a good zoo.
Can my writing get better? My prose more lyrical? My plots more dynamic? My characters more diverse? Of course it can.
Can zoos do a better job? Create more realistic and larger enclosures? Provide better care? Of course they can.
But just as my writing is a work in progress, so are our zoos.
I always hope each book I write is stronger than the one that came before it. The San Antonio Zoo isn’t perfect, but they have made changes, and continue to make changes, to improve the quality of life for their animals.
We don’t live in a perfect world, where every animal is allowed to live in their pristine, natural habitat any more than editors catch every single typo every single time.
Writers make mistakes, but that shouldn’t take away from our enjoyment of reading a good story.
Zoos make mistakes, but that shouldn’t take away from our opportunity to learn about the natural world or from the good work they are doing to help fight the extinction of the world’s wildlife.
Read a good book. Visit a zoo. Support writers and wildlife.
We’re all in this together.
Read the Publishers Weekly review by clicking the link here.