“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” – Kurt Vonnegut
T landed on his butt for the umpteenth time. No one has ever told him “It’s not time for that yet”. And even if they did, he couldn’t have understood. He places his hands on the ground, points his butt to the heavens, stands, and swings his arms like he’s on a tightrope. He plants one foot forward, lines up the other foot beside it, sways with his heels as a fulcrum, flails his arms like a drowning man and thud! He’s on the ground again.
The journey of a thousand miles… starts in the gym.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step is a saying that originated from the Chinese. We all know they are smart people and that must be why the world believes that saying. But I’m the kind of person who wonders: what happens before the step? If you intend to travel for a thousand miles on foot (and I hope you have a good reason to) the journey should start in a gym or with a diet or with daily jogs around your block? I believe that without the right kind of preparation, you would just end up at the door of that man who lives a mile from your house and has always mocked you as an under achiever because he was there when you couldn’t finish the 1500 metres in secondary school. You’ll have all these folks who want to cheer you as the first person to journey for a thousand miles on foot, but will return home with large banners that never get a chance to dance in the wind because you went down on your butt panting like an old truck making a steep ascent. And don’t forget that man who wants to mock you. You see why you have to start at the gym?
It is this kind of thinking that has pervaded my mind as I considered what to do about my writing. I’ve got very high tastes in words and I can smell rubbish from the first syllable. This has almost crippled my writing. When I started to blog last year, I had a good idea of what I wanted to sound like, but the limbo between what I want and what I am is why there a few violin virtuosos in the world. So I devised a plan. After reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Stephen King’s On Writing, I started to write every day. I scribbled stories, essays, poems (they were all bad) and a lot of disjointed stuff. One year later and I still don’t sound like I would love to.
All he does is stagger, walk, fall and the cycle begins again
Remember T? Let me tell you more about him. I don’t know when he discovered that his legs are not just props for holding on to mummy. But from the moment he did, there’s been no stopping him. At first he started to refuse being carried around. He would rather hold on to your fingers as he tried to make those legs work. And they worked. Then he decided to push them to their limits by running every time he walks.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched him land on his butt, look around for sympathy, stand up and resume his running. I’ve even seen him do that today. I think he knows that there is neither a gym to build his muscles nor diet to condition his young body. So, all he does is stagger, walk, fall and the cycle begins again.
I don’t know the number of times I can afford to land on my butt where writing is concerned, but T is now walking and I’m here on my couch, still trying to improve my writing. There is a place for being cautious and prepared, but I have to realise that landing on the butt is just one step to running the Obudu Mountain Race someday. There was a time when I was like T too: when I was not afraid of falling and had my sights on just running; a time when I did not over think a statement as simple as “the journey of a thousand miles starts with a step”. So here I am, trying to return to that time.
After two trips to planet WordPress, I’m throwing away the training wheels. I’ll experiment with narrative non-fiction, fiction, essays, the occasional poem and scribbles that don’t fit any of those descriptions. I’ll land on my butt a few times like T, but I want to believe it will all be a step to running those thousand miles. So if you’re like me and you’ve been in the gym forever, building up calf muscles that would only count miles on the treadmill, perhaps it’s time to step beyond the threshold and take that step on your journey of a thousand miles. I’m not saying you won’t fall, but falling is just a phase in the cycle—there’s running too.
Here is my first step.
Photo credits: https://www.flickr.com/photos/archetypefotografie/