Lately, I’ve been noticing an abundance of spider webs dazzling in the early morning light as the first rays catch their dewy threads. Their strength and structure amaze me. Each spider web I notice follows the same basic pattern. First the spider established her outermost framework and then worked her way inward in concentric spirals until she reached the heart of the web.
There’s no doubt that there is a universality to spider webs. But look closely and you will see that even though they share many common characteristics, each web is also a unique creation. Each web’s shape and size varies depending on where it was woven and on the delicate dance the spinning spider performed as she leapt from anchor point to anchor point. One web I saw was spun snuggly between two slender stems of Queen Anne’s lace, stretched oblong by early fall breezes. Another was hung high among prickly pine boughs, round and tight, so as not to get prickled, yet big enough to capture a passing fly.
As writers, it sometimes seems that every story has already been spun and that there couldn’t possibly be a new way to tell anything. Yes, it’s true, like spider webs, most stories fit into plot types and there are common structures. There are also universal themes. And like spiders, who all use liquid silk to build their webs, our stories too, are created using the same building blocks – words.
But does this mean originality is impossible? Not at all. Like webs, the best stories do have a universal quality about them. But, if we listen to our inner creative spirit, something unique will unfold within that universal framework. A spider web’s uniqueness emerges as she weaves in response to the specific setting and conditions surrounding that creation. She also leaps and dances in a way that only she can. Another spider spinning her web in the same spot would create a different web altogether.
So take heart as you write and listen to your deepest inner voice, the one that expresses itself in a way only you can. If you do, then I am convinced that, like a spider weaving uniquely concentric circles, you’ll weave the story as only you can.
Happy spinning all!
Note: Over the summer, I will be sharing some of my favorite analogies from years past as I stockpile new ones for the fall and beyond. This oldie but goodie was first published in October 2013. I was reminded of it this past week while visiting my dad in Lexington, VA. Each morning my husband and I took a lovely stroll through a long grass meadow on our way into town and what did we see? Hundreds and hundreds of spider webs catching the first morning rays as they shimmered in the tall grass.