Spiders and Writers and Webs – Oh My!

What do spiders and their webs have in common with writers and their careers? A lot, as it turns out. Our arachnid counterparts spend a noteworthy portion of their lives spinning their webs and we writers spend a substantial part of our writing years in the development of our craft.

But that’s not the only marked similarity. Our craft builds slowly.  We take courses, attend workshops, and write for hours, producing work we know will never pass in front of anyone’s eyes but ours.  That precious story we slaved over might be devastated by the words of a critique partner, editor, or reviewer.  Saddened but not discouraged, we return to words and begin anew.

And so do spiders.  The little guy in this picture is not alone in our yard.  (Draw your own parallels, writers.)  I’ve noticed these webs (and walked into a few) in countless spots.  Even if they don’t become the random victim of me, watering the plants in the early morning, by later in the day, they’re gone.  The arthropod in charge rewinds the silk, ready for another day’s labors.

These early season guys are not big – about the half the size of a printed ‘o’.  The web in this picture is only three inches across, and each fine weave is as close together as a sheet of paper’s thickness.  They string between great distances, sometimes feet from anchor to anchor.  Amazing things, these insects.

Like writers who grow in craft and talent as they practice, improve and toil over the years, these spiders expand, both in size and in their webs.  Later in the summer, the critters are bigger, like an inch or two across.  The webs measure in feet.  Each strand is further apart, and the weaving is elegant.

Reflecting on this as a writer, I see the significance in my own growth over the past five-plus years of full-time fiction work.  Plots twist in ways I couldn’t imagine years ago.  Characters carry heavier baggage and richer backstories into their suspenseful current lives.  My stories are more elaborate because I’ve often unwoven things, stretched to reach that next level of depth, and built a new web, more complicated and intricate than the last.

The next time you’re discouraged in your creative career, think of the lowly spider.  How many times do they spin a web before they get it right?  About as many times as we write a word and then change it to something better!

What parallels in nature can you draw with a creative career?

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