You’ve got a net
Elena used to jump at me unexpectedly.
She’d stand on the stairs, wait for me to walk by, and jump - shouting “catch me.”
I’d never know when it was going to happen.
I’d turn toward the sound and movement and open my arms to catch her and she’d land with her arms around my neck and give me a big hug that I can feel to this day.
It never occurred to her that I wouldn’t catch her.
In addition to the memories of the hundreds of successes, I also remember to this day the look on her face the one time when I didn’t turn quickly enough to catch her and she bumped off of me and landed on her backside.
She wasn’t hurt so much as disappointed.
She had taken a leap of faith and things hadn’t turned out the way she planned.
It didn’t change her.
Til the day she died she continued to leap trusting that the world would catch her.
There are so many things our children get from us and so many things we get from our children - that’s something I need to remind myself to do more of.
I’m afraid of heights.
I get a tight feeling in the back of my legs when I’m too near the edge of the roof on a tall building or on a bridge. Almost like I’m afraid my legs will propel me off the roof and I’m tensing them so that I don’t jump.
I know it’s silly.
But it just is.
I remember being afraid as a child of bridges falling while we were driving across them or tunnels collapsing while we were driving through the Allegheny mountains or under Boston harbor.
Years ago while visiting my brother in San Francisco I walked down to and across the Golden Gate Bridge.
You can try to understand and confront the roots of your fears - but that doesn’t get you across the bridge.
It was terrifying but I needed to do it.
I’m still afraid of heights, but I can and did walk across that bridge.
And then I walked back again.
A few weeks back I included a link in my newsletter to a man who jumped out of a plane without a chute from miles in the air.
When he lept, you couldn’t even see the net on the ground.
But he had been as careful as he could be and had planned for everything that he could foresee.
He jumped with others who helped guide him and orient him but at some point they pulled their chutes and it was just him.
He landed perfectly on his back on the net that had been prepared.
I’m unlikely to have jumped into that net from the roof of my house.
I see that same hesitance in my caution about jumping back into the world I live in.
One friend invited me to celebrate his daughter’s college graduation and another to celebrate her daughter’s wedding.
I’ve been vaccinated.
They’ve been vaccinated.
I know that it’s silly that I felt uncomfortable joining in.
I can try to justify it as saying that the leapers in my family, Elena and Kim, are both gone.
But that’s not it.
I was like this before I met either one of them.
And neither of them died because of leaps they took.
I can try to understand and confront the roots of my fears - but that doesn’t get me back into the world.
Now that it’s safe to do so, I need to just get back in.
Well, maybe not today - but at some point.
I’ve had a touch of writer’s block lately.
“But Daniel,” you say, “writer’s block doesn’t really exist.”
That’s true. And during this so-called writer’s block I’ve written and published thousands of words.
I’m just stuck on the revision to my bread book.
I got the comments from my reviewers.
The first episode of “The Screenwriting Life” podcast discussed getting notes and said your first reaction to hearing criticism of your work is often “f’ you.”
You usually move beyond that to the second reaction which is “f’ me.”
This is where you sit and know that you are a horrible writer and you had no right attempting this project. Why should you even bother putting in the effort to fix this thing.
It’s much easier and attractive to start a new shiny project (which you also will never finish if the pattern continues.)
You may even know in your core that this self-loathing/self-sabotage is unfounded.
Understanding and confronting the roots of this feeling doesn’t get you back writing.
You just need to get back to writing.
You need to get to stage three which is “what’s next.”
This is when you read the notes and try to identify what the actual issue is.
Often your knee hurts because you’re walking funny to avoid the pain in your ankle.
Their comment is about something that didn’t read right to them but the reason may not be that paragraph but five paragraphs earlier where you didn’t set it up right.
But mostly you have to be prepared to slide down to the floor and land on your behind.
You aren’t jumping from miles up in the air - you’re just standing on the stairs waiting for the reader to go by.
Your writing shouts, “catch me.”
Sometimes it does.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
You sit on your behind for a minute and realize - oh, actually, that didn’t hurt very much.
And you stand up, climb the stairs, and prepare to leap again.
Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 64. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe