There are a lot of people who say they could be a writer, probably as many as those who say they could have done a lot of things like get a degree or be a sports star. The problem is … and you can insert their “reason” for not, being born in the wrong place, time, social group, income level or whatever. The harsh reality is they could not have been what they are talking, precious few have the ability to be elite in that chosen field, and even fewer have the mental capability to take the risks of dedication and consistency with no promise of reward like those are at the top do.
It is not particularly uplifting or motivation to say, actually you can’t be whatever you want to be, there are some things you will never be good enough to above competent at best. If you have a twenty four inch inside leg I would not be trying to be an elite runner, just as someone five foot one is going to struggle in basketball. However, what really lets people down is their mindset. They do not have have what it takes, and even more importantly they are not interested in developing those skills. The prospect of working for years with no guarantee of payoff or reward beyond the journey itself is abhorrent to them. Quick and easy is what they want. I really had a lightbulb moment not so long ago when I was thinking about our financial situation and shoring a few things up and paying the mortgage off. I thought “if I am lucky I will get the chance to earn some good money too …”. However, most people I have ever heard say, “ If I am lucky I will win and …”. They are not wishing for the prospect of hard work to make the money, they want it now as a gift, bypassing the hard grind of making money.
I realised there is a huge chasm in how people think, and that those on one side, the quick easy gift side do not want to pass over to the work for it side. Yes, winning a lot of money would be great and I do do the lottery, but I do not consider it a possible exit strategy. So it is with this background, recognising that I am on the work side, and that looking back at my life I have been prepared to work with not guarantee of success multiple times to the point that I have a large amount of failures because I was prepared to risk everything to be successful, that I came to realise that I have developed a fear.
My fear is that once again I will work hard and not fail, but as happened too often, not get the chance to fail. From injuries preventing both professional try outs and then a career in the armed forces to working hard progressing a career in a company that fails due to fraud from the directors. I have anchored myself in a pursuit where the journey is most of the point, where your competition is as much yourself as it is anyone else, and where in short I am no where near the top so much that failure and success are related to personal achievement and perspective.
Creatively, the same fear has driven me to quick results. I love writing poetry, one of the things I love about poetry is that, for me, is that I can produce poems quickly. They may need a lot of work and end up completely disregarded, but what I produce is a recognisable poem, and I can produce one or many in a day. In their raw form they look finished. I have accomplished and have something to show.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the relative speed of poetry production, it is rewarding and enjoyable on so many levels. In this context the journey of writing, the learning, the practice, the journey of writing is a huge component of what makes writing so engaging. However, what poetry also does is it allows me to finish. Unlike the frustrations of my life, and some where life changing, poetry allows me the final act and an ending. My work has a payoff.
Which is awesome, however, not recognising this fear of working and then getting nothing at the end, not even recognition of the work and effort, has seriously held me back. I do have a longer story idea, I have characters, I have a setting in time and place, background story, backdrop, a start, motivations, and an ending – however, those pieces are haphazard and independent because I have been afraid of developing them. I have not worked on joining the start and the end together with a narrative journey, although I know what the theme and issues of the story are. My fear has kept me disengaged because what if I write the story, the story is good, and it goes nowhere. What if I send it to publishers and such and it gets rejected until there is no one to reject it, what if my idea is stolen and they get the success and the credit from my work. Would this crush me; would this be the hammer blow that knocks me down so bad that I stay down.
This fear is why my book is unwritten. Where once I would work with no guarantees of success, recognition or payoff, now that prospect is too much. Thinking about those times that ended with nothing, and in some cases I ended where I started before the work like the journey never happened, is painful. To give perspective I worked for four years, legitimately earned my reward to have that taken away from me by the decision of someone and that is not mentioning that I lost nearly everything in divorce apart from my clothes, computer, books, my favourite spoon and a couple of mugs. To work again and have nothing the very thought itself is a crushing weight.
The book is going to stay unwritten, unless I can address this thought pattern and face the pain of those losses. I have to grieve over what I lost, what was taken because until now I had to carry on as if they never happened. Pretend they were nothing, when in reality, they had been everything. I never got to process what had happened, what it meant to me, and what was left at the end.
The hardest thing is explaining this fear, because it is not a fear of failure. I am ok with failing, I am ok with not being the very best, both of these are familiar and I have learned to live through them. Being ok with them does not mean I am happy or content with either, it simply means that I have learned to live with both. Failures are at least proof that I am trying. Which maybe is my point, when I fall short of getting the opportunity to fail, I have no proof of trying. Failure is a result, it is an end point. It is hard to describe because I am grieving the lack of loss. It is like nothing I have experienced, ive done the seeing a girl and never having the courage to talk to her and try and get a date thing, I have missed opportunities through poor judgement and lack of self belief but they are different to this.
I know, until recently, I had not even considered the impact of these never was incidents on my life and judgement. I was not conscious of their impact until quite recently when I was getting ready to compete. I guess I can say it here because no one knows me, I had a minor heart attack, and it has been a long road back. The competition was a big deal and I said for this one “I either come home with my shield or on it”. Two weeks before I got sick, I was running a fever, delirious with hallucinations. I should have been hospitalised, thing is my wife didn’t even ask. She knew I would never willingly go. I got to the competition, I did it, I did well enough, even if that was not as well as I wanted. Three days later I was hospitalised, because it took two days to convince me I wasn’t getting better. I had an obstructed bile duct and pancreatitis. It was then, in that preparation for that competition, that I realised, the prospect of having trained so hard, prepared like I had, I could not face not actually competing, I would rather have gone and failed, and I nearly did, than not gone at all. I had to come home with my shield or on it, and it was close to being on it.
So it is with writing, I am choosing the easier psychological wins, the next step in my development as a person is to learn to risk again, and risk not getting to fail because there was a time when I did, but then one time to many the opportunity was taken away, and often by circumstances not under my direct control. One example is a few years back I was again getting ready to compete, and I was at my all time best, in fact I am not back there now, and I broke my big toe, clean. I didn’t do the competition, with my shield mentality I probably would have gone and done something anyway. But, at the time, I took the good advice and skipped it for another day instead of going with my instinct to go anyway.
What happened next was, a short time after I was close to being hospitalised with anaemia. The issue was at least one bleeding stomach ulcer, that was sorted with medication, however, the lack of iron meant a weakened immune system and having coeliac disease certainly wasn’t helping matters and I succumbed to multiple infections while my body slowly recovered. The rest of the story is, I am still working to get back to that point, because that broken toe was the last time I was physically healthy, almost like it pulled the trigger for other parts of me to start breaking, hopefully peaking with the heart attack, although the still partially obstructed bile duct is not a good party.
That is enough rambling. Time to move on and let the Mouse do his thing.