The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.
-Vincent Van Gogh
(Unless you are my friend Chris who whips out her weather app whenever a line of storm clouds appear on the distant horizon!)
Setting aside a true tornado brewing in the distance, what I like about this quote is the idea that the knowledge of risk doesn't stop fisherman from pushing out from the shore into the waves. Being aware of the prospect for danger is a part of the job. In fact, being aware of the risk makes them more alert, focused on each task and even better prepared for the unexpected.
Oftentimes when you're given a new responsibility -- let's say a project at work-- there's little choice to remain on shore. You're in the boat and someone's shoving it into the waves, even before you get your bearings. It's hard to do when you're already getting a little tossed around and you're scribbling down a to-do list to get a handle on things but extending the list to thinking about possible unintended consequences and factors outside of your control can help you feel more prepared. You're taking the time to understand what to watch out for, much like the fisherman who learns to read whether a cloud bank will turn into a storm.
But not all risks are the same. And when it comes to a creative or innovative or entrepreneurial idea I'm learning there's a common objection that masquerades as danger that's worth pushing against.
It's worry about reputation or fear of being thought foolish or fear of failure. In a single word: ego.
Marketing guru Seth Godin recently wrote about this. He said, "Professionals take their work seriously. The work matters, the impacts and externalities are real. On the other hand, we can't take it personally. When someone rejects an idea, or if a project doesn't succeed, we've learned a valuable lesson about strategy and about tactics, but it's not a reflection on our worth as a human."
This is what I've been working on reminding myself. Learning happens by doing and launching into the unknown. Besides, how can I expect to gather anything unless I'm out in the deep and willing to put down my net?
Update on my steps in exploring writing a book
Daily practice of writing 30 minutes/day -- So far, so good. 21 days in a row.
Research similar authors - I recently finished Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings. The historical fiction is set in Charleston and is the story of two women: "Handful," a slave, and her childhood friend, Sarah Grimke, who ultimately became an abolitionist and one of the first women's rights leaders in the 1800's. While reading the story it brought to mind a trip made a few years ago to visit the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY. Though not the setting of this book, it reminded me of that desire to understand how and why ordinary people become voices that create change. Now I'm following author Sue Monk Kidd on social media just to get to know her better. Plus I just found out there's an organization called the Historical Novel Society - who knew?
Books I'm reading - I just finished Daisy Goodwin's Victoria (PBS created a dramatic series based on the book). It's a light-hearted, quick read, reflecting how young and unprepared 19-year-old Victoria was when she became monarch. Little did she know she would reign for 63 years! I enjoyed the historical fiction but found myself wishing there was more context about those times. There are hints of current events but Victoria's preoccupation with her clothes and current romances dominated her thought in this narrative. Next up: Pamela Toler's Heroines of Mercy Street, about the real nurses of the Civil War.
Write essays – I'm working on a longer blog now about an unrecognized individual who influenced a famous artist.
Let me leave you with a quote from a writer who at 21 struggled at a job he hated. For three years he wrote a story every weekend.
I've got the guts to die. What I want to know is, have you got the guts to live?
How are you putting down your nets this week?
Hope you have a good one!