The Writer and The Mayfly

“A person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.” – Carl Jung, The Spirit in Man, Art and Literature

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The mayfly belongs to the order Ephemeroptera. In Greek, ephemeros means “short-lived,” which, more often than not, typifies the rapidly diminishing elation the freelance writer experiences following publication—of anything.

Mayflies lay their eggs in water. Similarly, water also attracts the freelancer, who is striving to keep her head above it. Maybe you see where this is going…

The mayfly passes through four cycles in life: nymph, emerger, dun, and spinner—as does the writer!

Okay, so during the first cycle, the nymph usually can be found hiding under a submerged rock. Buried in a dark apartment typing query letters, the writer is not as easy to find.

Slithering out from beneath its rock increases the nymph’s risk of being eaten by a trout, but slither it will. Of comparable risk is the writer’s habit of sending out pages on spec. Most editors are not wont to swallow writers, but some will spit them out without even chewing.

Happily, wisdom comes with maturation. The mature nymph—known as the emerger—understands that it needs to swim toward the surface of the water. In the interest of self-preservation, the writer accepts the fact that she must emerge from her apartment for a much-needed dose of vitamin D.

(Somewhere the writer has read—possibly in a book written by a rich and famous author who advocates walking as a panacea for unemployment—that a body in motion excites the neural pathways).

Ambulating toward ingenuity, the writer gradually sheds her insecurities, at least, temporarily, and moves toward the light. The Y.A. mayfly—the aforementioned dun—in corresponding fashion, casts off its husk. Then it floats on the water drying its wings before taking off for the trees.

Although the mayfly sheds but once, the freelancer exists in a perpetual state of molt. Does the writer ever fly? After crafting a perfect sentence, yes, sometimes, maybe. But only within the confines of her own cranium.

Back in the great outdoors, the new adult mayfly—the spinner—vacates the trees to initiate mating. The female drops its eggs on the surface of the water, allowing them to drift to the bottom. Shortly thereafter, male and female spinners will fall to the surface of the water—and die.

More often than not, the writer is also a spinner. She aggrandizes, embroiders, exaggerates—puts a lively spin on the prose. Spinning may mislead the reader, yet, paradoxically, spinning attracts more assignments.

But spinning induces le petite mort—a little death—a melancholic expenditure of psychic energy, which enervates the writer. Bouts of obsessive left- to right-brain pep talks sometimes helps to restore cognitive balance. There are no guarantees.

When all is said and done, the adult life of the mayfly lasts only one or two days, tops—which is about as far ahead as many freelancers can project into their future.

Which is sort of Zen (how’s that for spin).

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