For those of you catching up, at the ripe old age of 24 I decided to take up skating. Last post I addressed some parallels between learning to skate and writing. I’ve now been to the skatepark several more times and have even learned to drop in on a skate ramp. Can you believe it? I won’t lie, I’m super proud of myself because it was honest-to-goodness one of the scariest things ever. This brings me to my dual lesson for the day and the theme is Fear.
Fear is probably the number one most crippling, most debilitating, and most un-empowering emotion out there.
With skateboarding, it’s the fear of the concrete and I mean that’s a pretty…um…concrete obstacle. And well, to be honest, I’ve found out that fear is fairly well-founded, too.
But really, the fear in skateboarding is the fear of failure, right? Because you wouldn’t be fearful if you knew that you were going to ride off into the distance, would you? It’s the part where you picture your elbow slamming into the pavement that makes you want to wet your pants.
Same with writing. You wouldn’t be scared if you thought: Hey, once I get these words down I’m going to be a mega-hit. I’m going to be JK Rowling on wheels, would you? No, of course not. It’s the part where you picture sending that baby out and having it slapped down to the proverbial pavement by every publisher in town that truly starts you shaking in your boots.
So here’s the thing, in both cases you are envisioning the worst case scenario. And, to extend the analogy, you’re sitting up there at the top of the ramp, second guessing yourself to the point where (a) you won’t try or (b) you’ll fulfill your own prophesy and fall flat on your face. Neither are exactly what you’re going for, obviously.
The guy that’s teaching me to skate is always on me to look where I want to go. He’s always telling me to picture myself riding out, not to consider falling, to repeat that I’m going to land it no matter waht. And oh my goodness do I try. Yet there is always this little niggling feeling that crawls in my head reminding me of two times back when I smashed my wrist up or how much it hurt pretty darn badly when I burned the side of my leg on the ground. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt stupid standing up there literally talking out loud to myself, “I will land it. I will land it.”
But it works.
I think right, I land right. Not easy, not as simple as it sounds, but true. And I have to believe that a lot of what gets in our way as writers is doubt. A whole heaping spoonful of doubt. Plus, what’s worse is the feedback isn’t nearly as instantaneous as on the skateboard. While you might think this would be a good thing, it actually makes it that much worse. You can go a whole manuscript just wondering if the entire thing sucks. So you just stand there, second-guessing, and getting more and more freaked out, letting that, rather than confidence, seep into the end performance.
So, here’s the thing. It may help you to read this blog post about how your agent really, truly does love your writing despite your doubt. Or you may have to find some other way of convincing yourself that you are actually awesome. This doesn’t mean that you don’t think through the basics. On a ramp, you need to think about leaning forward and about staying balanced at the bottom. What you don’t do is think about what might happen if you lean back. Same with writing. Don’t be arrogant. Remember the basics, remember to learn. Just don’t dwell on what might happen if you fail.
Finally, for your viewing pleasure, here are some videos of pro-skaters Rodney Mullen and Daewon Song falling hard, followed by some other random shots:
On the upside, you’re having a better day than that^