A story: Chuck Yeager, the hero of Tom Wolfe’s classic, The Right Stuff, is widely considered to be the best pilot who ever lived. The night before he was scheduled to attempt a world-shattering feat — flying solo in the first faster-than-sound flight in history, Yeager took a wild evening ride and fell off his horse. He injured his shoulder, seriously spraining it. This injury was dangerous enough to force his flight to be cancelled because it would make it impossible for him to close the hatch on the X-1 rocket plane in the normal way after he was loaded into it from a mother ship at 20,000 feet above the earth.
Unfazed and determined to keep his date with destiny, Chuck took along a broom handle so that he could close the hatch with his other hand. His flight went off as planned and he went on to push through the sound barrier, despite an injury that could have kept him on the ground — and probably would have if he hadn’t been Chuck Yeager.
I love this story for several reasons: First, Chuck had an intention — a goal he was totally focused on and he never wavered from it. Second, he screwed up — he made a mistake by letting loose the night before his flight, but he didn’t let it self-sabotage him. And finally, when he accidentally threw monkey wrench into his own plans, he improvised his way out of his dilemma — he came up with a simple, but creative solution to the problem he faced.
I’d wager that there’s no one among us who’s going to be flying solo faster than the speed of sound. Right now, we still can’t even take a flight in a plane someone else is flying on a vacation to the Bahamas or Europe!
Still, there’s a lot we can learn from Chuck’s example. Some time soon, we’re all going to face some kind of challenge on the writing front. Maybe we’re striving to break our own sound barrier metaphorically speaking — and push the envelope in some way by stepping out of our comfort zone in a novel or story we’re writing. Or maybe, we’re experimenting with a new genre instead of our usual territory. Or maybe we experimented with an idea that isn’t working — and now, we’re out on a limb.
Whatever the challenge we face, we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to have moments when, like Chuck, we have a choice: We can kick ourselves and fall into self-sabotaging negative self-talk — or we can shrug our shoulders, shake it off, and come up with a simple, yet elegant solution. Let’s make Chuck’s choice as we all write on!
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