In 1896 twenty-five year old Stephen Crane was hired by the Bacheller newspaper syndicate to serve as a war correspondent during the Cuban insurrection against Spain. On New Year’s Eve he boarded the SS Commodore, along with twenty-some other men, supplies and ammunition for the Cuban rebels. Surrounded by dense fog, they made it two whole miles (OK, that’s a slight exaggeration–they didn’t quite make it two miles) before the ship struck a sandbar.
While it appeared they would be able to continue on their journey, a leak in the boiler room proved otherwise. So it was in the wee hours of January 2, 1897, Crane and three other men boarded a dinghy, in which they bobbed off the coast of Florida for thirty hours. Attempting to land on shore, their boat capsized, forcing them to swim for shore. One of them didn’t make it.
I don’t know about you, but to me, that does not sound like an auspicious start to a new year.
Luckily, Stephen Crane refused to let a rough start keep him down. Within a few days he had written down his tale–‘Stephen Crane’s Own Story’ was published shortly thereafter. Within a few weeks he had finished what would come to be known as ‘The Open Boat.’ The fictionalized account was first published in Scribner’s magazine; The Open Boat and Other Tales of Adventure and The Open Boat and Other Stories were published in the United States and England, respectively, a year later.
‘The Open Boat’ would come to be known as Crane’s greatest work.
So to you, dear readers and writers and philosopher’s–if you feel as though your life has hit bottom, as if you’re floating about in a sea of uncertainty, don’t give up! Your inspiration may be closer than you think . . .