A couple of weekends ago at the Old West Festival I was picking my way across some boards laid over a grassy field, waving my arms like a windmill trying to stay upright as the boards teetered side-to-side. I stepped off to avoid falling. An onlooker laughed at my antics and said, “You wouldn’t pass the DUI test.”
He’s right. I can’t walk a straight line on the sidewalk, much less a board. Some people run like gazelles, leap over leather stationary horses with ease, balance on 5-inch beams like ballerinas on tippy toes—but not me.
I’m a klutz. I always have been. Probably always will be.
As a teenager I fell up the steps, ran into trees while sledding, sprained ankles in gym class, and tripped over miniscule things. As a young married woman I tried running with my athletic husband and I always end up meeting the pavement—chest first. After a bunch of skinned knees and jammed hands, I decided walking seemed more my pace. I wasn’t any more coordinated at a slower pace. Those uneven cracks in the cement grabbed my ankles and down I’d go.
Time and age have not improved my coordination skills. I’ve fallen backstage in pitch black dark outs; fallen out of the closet; fallen out of my raised flower beds and slid head first down the grassy hill; hooked my feet in garden hoses and belly-flopped to the ground; body skied down a flight of steps, and miraculously ended up with only bruises. On a recent walk up to Frisch’s for lunch, before I tore my meniscus for the third time in 20 years, I walked head first into a ladder sticking out the back of a pickup truck. The experience left my ears ringing.
Grace is definitely not my middle name, but determination is. Aside from my unbelievable clumsiness, one thing has been a constant in all these near disastrous mishaps—I got up, dusted myself off, and kept going. Stopping has not been an option for me.
Stopping isn’t an option whenever I face writing mishaps, either. The urge to write, to create, to do something with all those ideas and characters who nibble around the edges of my brain, makes me pick myself up, dust away the problems and keep going. When the computer crashes, and I don’t have a backup, I tell myself I can redo it and it will be even better. When I’m too scared of failure, I make myself take a chance. When rejection after rejection comes I know I must believe in myself and my work. If I have to trash a story well into the telling, I consider it practice in the craft. If I fall down, I get back up. No matter what obstacle I face I tell myself I have to keep going. Stopping is not an option.
The writing world isn’t an easy one, but it’s the only world I want to work in, so I’ll keep working my way through its hazards. With a little luck, and a lot of determination, sooner or later I’ll figure out how to walk the boards without wind milling.
Have you a writing hazard that knocks you down? What do you do to get back up on your feet?