There’s an expression I hear frequently that one’s “reach exceeds the grasp”. I’m certainly no stranger to that idea, given my creative mind, which often causes me to dream up far more elaborate stories than I could possibly write. Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to push oneself beyond the perceived limits to make gains, or to simply raise one’s confidence.
I like to take long walks, where I try to go farther or faster than I’ve done previously. On at least two occasions, I’ve exceeded twenty miles during a single walk, and it always takes a physical toll on me, particularly my feet. But it’s never the process I enjoy, rather the outcome. Many times, I ask myself why I’m doing it, and the only viable answer is to prove to myself I can.
Sometimes succeeding is a simple matter of putting oneself into a situation where the cost of failure is simply too great. When I’m on a long walk, I’m often very far from my vehicle and, given the times I walk, there aren’t many places open, so my only option is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, despite my body screaming at me to take a break. At times like these, it’s crucial to be able to focus on the task at hand, and to not constantly remind myself how far I have left to travel.
By this, I don’t mean to say failure isn’t an option, because it always is, but by placing oneself into a situation where the price for giving up is much greater than moving forward, one is able to evaluate the consequences of failure. Life is always about choices, and often, I’ve noted that when I have abandoned a pursuit, it was almost always a case of talking myself out of continuing when I probably could have gone on. So far, I’ve been fortunate to have not encountered any serious situations where I was physically unable to continue, but I always try to give myself alternatives, if I feel I’m pushing myself too much, and I make sure I have a means of contacting someone in case something goes wrong.
Success or failure is often a matter of attitude, and those who succeed undoubtedly have many failures in their past. Throughout college and into the nineties, I started, then abandoned many writing projects. During my time at New York University, I bored my fellow writing students with endless rewrites of a novel I never finished. In the late-nineties, I started working on a book about the tech boom featuring an individual who became a billionaire by manipulating the “new economy” which ultimately got scrapped. I always kept the story in the back of my head, hoping to one day get back to it.
Then, around twenty-o-six, I sat down to attempt writing a book in the manner in which I had written items I posted on the Internet, piece by piece and episode by episode. The first scene I wrote was another I had carried around in my head for more than twenty years. The result was my novel The Longtimers, which I later reformatted as individual volumes, A Tale of Two Sisters and Crazy Like the Foxes. Completing The Longtimers gave me the confidence that I could finish something and spurred my development as an author.
When I started working on the play that gave birth to my Expanded Universe of Fictional Atlanta, the idea for the novel on the tech boom in Atlanta found new life, and I was able to resurrect the main character. I now have plans to work on that story again once I’ve completed my current works in progress and I have a much clearer focus on the character and story.
It always pays to keep going.