IWSG: Knitting Parachutes
While many use this as an opportunity to vent their frustrations, I realized early on that if I keep posting about my own insecurities, these posts will start sounding very similar. So I decided to move away from "woe is me" and focus on motivation and encouragement, centering my IWSG posts on inspirational quotes from people I admire.
This month's quote comes from one of my favorite authors, which is not even remotely distinguishing, since he's practically everyone's favorite author. I'm talking about one of this generation's biggest speculative rock stars, Neil Gaiman.
Like many fellow nerds, my first introduction to Gaiman's work was the DC/Vertigo comic series The Sandman, which stands to this day as one of the greatest works of graphic storytelling of all time, in this humble writer's opinion. But he's perhaps better known for the bestselling novels he went on to write afterward. Works like American Gods and The Graveyard Book have garnered Neil Gaiman multiple awards and a massive following. During a talk at UCLA a few years back, he said this:
"Sometimes writing is like jumping out of an airplane and hoping you can knit a parachute before you crash."
And thus, one of my favorite quotes about writing was born. He was primarily referring to his personal writing process (I believe it was in response to a question about whether he uses outlines or not), but I think it beautifully captures the spirit of wordsmithery as a whole. Think about how much of what we do requires that obligatory leap of faith from heights we didn't even know we could reach (often followed by the frantic search for a ripcord that doesn't exist). Even the simple act of sitting down to write in the first place is a blind plunge into the unknown. It requires shutting out other parts of the world that perhaps deserve your attention, setting aside time from the rigors and responsibility of your life to entertain the notion that you have something to give to the empty page. All the while, that little voice prods at you, reminding you of the 'real life' things you could be spending your time on, accusing you of arrogant navel-gazing that will amount to heaps of nothing in the end.
These words also capture the sheer urgency for success that many of us feel. The more we try to ignore that nay-saying voice, the louder it gets, and the only thing that will shut it up for good is achieving the goals it tells us we'll never be able to reach. So we clamor for them, strain for them against the weight of the world, and the closer we come to that ripcord, the faster terra firma seems to be rushing up to meet us. I absolutely love what I do, but the self-imposed pressure of my writing career is far more oppressive than any hard-assed boss at any 'real life' job could ever hope to be.
So what do we do about this free fall we're in, then? How do we address the rapidly approaching ground in such a way that doesn't result in a resounding splat? Well, as Mr. Gaiman suggests, we get our knitting needles moving. That parachute isn't going to appear spontaneously—we can't wish it into existence. The only way we can spread our wings and float gently across the finish line is through hard work and perseverance. Staring back at the comfortable airplane we leapt from or looking down at the possibility of our impending doom are both exercises in frustration and futility. But if we buckle down and put in the kind of hard work that begets success, we will find that success, one way or another. It's easier said than done, and there's no telling how long we'll have to work at that parachute, but the only guaranteed assurance of failure is resignation.
And I don't know about you, but I'm not quite ready to resign. So I'm getting to work on my parachute. Care to go skydiving with me in 2013? It's a long way down, but the view is fantastic.