Yoda’s mantra “Do, or do no. There is no try.” always sounded good. It was not until 5 years ago that I actually gave it an honest spin.
Late 2010 my sister asked me to run a Half Marathon with her. I had not run 1.3 total miles combined* over the prior 13 years. *(outside of pickup basketball and the like). Staring that mileage in the face gave me the incentive to follow Hal Higdon‘s training to a T.
Five half marathons later, I am a runner. Not a fast one. To be honest, plodding; but a runner nonetheless. I never would have believed one would be possible, let alone five. Until I started running.
On those runs I would kick around story ideas in my head, take ideas for a test drive. Is this an interesting character? This line seems too perfect, have I heard it before? This is an essential part of writing; brainstorming and exploring. But letting ideas swirl in the safe confines of your head is not writing. It certainly does not make you a writer. That requires sitting down and writing.
My brain was a safe area, where all ideas were great. I aimed to keep them that way. It was safe. If only someone could read my mind, what a tale my thoughts could tell. It was the emptiest achievement this side of an Xbox.
It is tough to push those brilliant flickers out into the light, to see them for what they are. Those that survive the journey with some integrity are a great place to start. I wish they tumbled out with more frequency than they do.
To be kind, most are less-than-stellar embers. Which is not to say they are useless. Those embers can often ignite and inform my work in ways I could not imagine when they danced safely inside my grey matter as THE thing.
All of this takes a lot of do-ing, which can be hard to sustain. Like many things in life running, writing…anything worth doing is all about inertia and persistence. And even after you learn this hard lesson, you sometimes have to re-learn it.
After I “finished” my first script in twenty years I did a six month victory lap of nothing. Chuck Noland on the beach, screaming about having made fire. I look at that draft now and wonder how I could ever have seen it as finished.
I slipped back into trying:
- to recover,
- to think about what I wrote,
- to get over the disappointment of it not being successful.
Have I mentioned that “doing” is not easy? Once you clear one obstacle, another will take its place, like , “When is writing something finished?”
As far as I can tell, never. I almost sent this draft to Adam for review ten different times. I just kept plugging along. This sentence is from draft eleven. And this one, thirteen.
Four days ago I had a panic attack. Right after I hit send on my latest script draft a dozen ideas hit my brain. Tonight I am going to work through those fevered, panicked thoughts and see if there is anything worth exploring.
I can’t wait.
(Turns out I could wait. I watched Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. [Great film, by the way, a visual essay on letting pain and anger control you…something I know more about than I wish I did.] )
The point is, you have to sit down and put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, brush to canvas, rubber to the road…whatever your preferred mode…just write. or paint. or run. Whathaveyou.
Five years after I embraced Yoda, I am still not where I want to be as a runner or a writer. But there is an internal peace that has come with putting in the time and effort. I am on my way: plodding, running, editing. Doing.