A very wise man once told me that if you are not afraid you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Interesting thought right? If there’s no trepidation at the thought of failure, or risk of embarrassment or shame, then you’re playing it too safe. He compared my goal of becoming a successful author to climbing Everest. When you are standing with both feet on the ground and staring up at the treacherous mountain there is an absence of fear. You’re safe. You can state your intention to climb, but until you actually start to traverse the mountain’s surface you’ll never know the thrill of the ascent.
Many of us start writing like that. We look at the hardcopies created by authors we love and while we know there have been ounces of blood given, sweat produced, and tears wept to create them, we fail to understand the true magnitude of becoming published. We naturally just assume that we’ll write a manuscript and it will immediately become a bestseller. But nobody can ever truly understand the dedication and effort required just to write a novel unless they’ve done it themselves. To then edit, rewrite, find representation and ultimately become published is as complex a task as one can ever take on. Becoming published is a writer’s psychological version of Everest, complete with avalanches, precarious cliff faces and dodgy ledges.
The man who told me that I was playing safe is a published author. In fact, he’s a little better than that. He is one of the most recognizable names in modern literature and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with him. He told me that I was too comfortable as a writer and that if I ever wanted to climb Everest and become a successful author, I’d first need to learn how to climb. Then, when I was ready, I’d need to learn how to climb again. Only this time without a safety net.
Why? Because there is no triumph without the threat of failure, and only those who are prepared to push themselves further than their own limits will ever be privy to the glory of true success. Seventy one percent of people who attempt to summit Everest fail; only twenty nine percent ever achieve their dreams. The ones that do make it are all unique. They come from across the globe and battle against their own circumstances, as well as those of the mountain. But they all have one thing in common: they’ve learned how to trust in fear. When the shit hits the fan and they need to climb without a safety net, they use the fear that cripples most of us to spur them onwards towards success.
I’m not about to climb the real Everest. I’m in somewhat reasonable shape, but if you asked me to hike nearly nine thousand meters I’d fail. If I somehow managed to hike to base camp without having a heart attack I’d consider it a success. But nevertheless I can learn how to trust in fear. I can learn how to climb the mountains of my mind without a safety net. And I have. If I hadn’t then there’s a very real possibility that Midas would have never been put into print.
One of the biggest fears I had when I first started writing was embarrassment. I feared looking foolish; of being judged. I wanted to be successful. I wanted to be a star! But I wanted to know that I would be a success before I took a leap of faith and shared my work with the world. I didn’t want to accept that failure was a possibility. The problem is that it doesn’t always work like that. You have to make yourself vulnerable and expose your works so that people can then learn to love or loathe what you have created. I started writing in 2006, creating manuscript after manuscript and submitting them without the slightest hint of success to agents and publishers. I’d write in isolation, edit the work myself, and then submit to a company who would take one look at the works and send it back with a Dear John letter attached.
I was so desperate to be liked that I had this crazy idea that I could write in complete isolation then suddenly emerge with a publishing deal and become a phenomenal success. My safety net was my anonymity and until I was ready to be a celebrity I just had to keep a low profile. The agents and publishers I submitted trashy pieces to didn’t know me. I was just a mysterious writer who was expecting himself to revolutionize an industry. Instead, I was denying myself the opportunity to develop my talent through exposure to appreciation and criticism by an audience.
In 2012 I started this blog. I was down and out: a broken man with no positive outlook or hope of achieving my goals. But by taking a risk: by listening to the words of a superstar who had traversed this ground before me I took my first shaky steps without a safety net. I allowed myself to be loved and loathed by my peers, and I learned how to become a better writer through their words. I was loved by some, loathed by others – Even ending up as the target of a religious organization in the United States who said I was promoting the dangerous ideology of acceptance to my readers: an accomplishment I really wish I could put on my resume…
…But I digress…
…I learned to trust in fear through this site. I learned to be exposed and to be vulnerable, and the pay off is that I now have a book in print, a healthy blog, and a happiness that eluded me for many years. People always tell me that I am hard on myself. That I push myself to places that I shouldn’t go, or set goals that are almost certainly destined to fail. They say that I should be more realistic. But I respond by saying that they need to learn how to push themselves outside of their comfort zone. The moment you become complacent or content is the moment where you have lost the opportunity to reach just that little bit further.
I’ve learned to not only trust in fear; but to thrive off of it. Without fear I never would have made it this far. I’m determined to climb my Everest, so I keep pushing myself with every piece that I write. I keep praying for accolades and admonishment by my peers so that I can continue to grow. Because the more I do, the more I lose site of that damn safety net that threatens to hold me back. Fear is failure. Freedom comes from being prepared to fall.