The View from the Middle

So, I live in Roswell, GA.  It’s a suburb of Atlanta.  And as much as I love living in Atlanta, the big thing we’re missing is a body of water.  The closest beach is about a 5-hour drive.  (Unless you count the local lake… which, I mean, come on).  We do have a perfectly good river though, and thanks to that river, we in Roswell have a waterfall.

Roswell has a lot of history to it.  The town was built around an old cotton mill – a mill that was once used to make Confederate uniforms for the Civil War (before it was burned to the ground).  And to power this mill, they built a 30 ft. dam.

The ruins of this mill and the dam are now one of the most beautiful areas in the Atlanta area.  It looks like this:

Today, while exploring the falls, I was trying to navigate my way up a rocky path.  As I looked up, it was clear there was only one way up.  Every other possible path was either too dangerous or blocked by thick brush.

So I followed this one and only path to the top and looked back down.  What I discovered was this:

The brush wasn’t as thick as I assumed.  The dangerous rocks were safe and level.  There were many paths to the top.  I just couldn’t see them because of my limited view.  

And as I stood at the top, looking back down, it occurred to me… this is a great cheesy metaphor!

But that’s what life is like, right?  Especially for creatives.  We may be paralyzed by fear of the unknown.  We may be convinced that the path we want to go down is blocked or that the journey to the top is too risky.  It’s only when we make it to our destination and look back down that we see how clear the path really was.

I met a guy the other day who referred to himself as “an unsuccessful writer.”  When I told him that “success is just a mindset,” he replied “that’s something only successful writers say.”

My first thought was “He’s somehow been fooled into thinking I’m a successful writer!  What a sucker!”  But I suppose it’s true, I have found a little success in writing.  I’m still not doing it full time, but I do have a body of work to show for the past 8 years.  I’ve sold screenplays.  I’ve made a well-received short film.  I’ve had comics published on websites that I respect.  I’ve spoken at a conference on storytelling.  But it’s only looking back on these accomplishments that I feel anything resembling success.  While in the middle of the journey, these are very small steps surrounded by ten times that many disappointments and failures.

The only difference between me and this “unsuccessful writer” was that he just couldn’t yet see his path.  The further you climb, the clearer the path becomes.  You just have to keep moving forward.

Success is just a combination of time and consistency.  To constantly be producing over a long period of time.  Focus on the good, not the bad.  Overcome your fears.  Put your head down and keep climbing.  You’ll have plenty of time to figure out the path when you get to the top.

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5 comments
  1. Sailor said:

    As a boater on the great lakes I need to point out (as I head to the dermatologist) that you also do not have, bugs, fog, insane weather, and boat damage at 1000 a square foot. Sunsets are nice tho.

  2. Just picked up on this post and the series of interviews you’ve been posting. This is really cool material to put together for on-line writers and other artists experimenting with social media and other DIY venues for carving out a creative expression niche and finding an audience. I look at some of the fan art I get hooked on browsing YouTube and I’m just amazed with the talent of some undiscovered teens uploading things from their bedrooms most likely, and it’s both inspiring and frustrating. You see messages like this one [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K_1RaVZkmw&feature=plcp] and pleas for comments and subscribers from people who have the goods and don’t feel like they’ve found their audience. And I know that feeling for myself, and it’s rough. But the message for makers of fan videos is important as a caveat to these stories about finally making it into a good distribution platform and making a living as an artist – the long haul that precedes success and doesn’t guarantee success has to have a firmer footing than willingness to count on a long shot gamble with huge amounts of your energy and time, paying opportunity costs you’ll never really be able to measure in hindsight out of commitment to your craft and your voice. So the work has to justify itself to you – the making of it has to be your source of joy in it, so that if your audience arrives you will be underwhelmed. Field of Dreams is a pretty dated reference at this point, but that’s the rub I’m afraid. Some of us are going to have to settle for visitations from the ghosts who inspired us, rather than actual crowds, and we have to know how to embrace that kind of success whatever else happens.

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