“Although men are accused of not knowing their own weakness, yet perhaps few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils when sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of. Jonathan Swift, English clergyman and writer (1667-1745)
“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second. Give your dreams all you’ve got and you’ll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.” William James, American psychologist and writer (1842-1910)
Two writers born about 200 years apart who have the same message—what a wonder! And how helpful it is for us to remember and apply the truth they’ve handed us here.
Let’s face it, it’s not easy to know our own strength or to find our second wind. Most people spend most of the time trying to do the opposite—they’re content to coast along. They value comfort over over the discomfort that goes with growth. They’re not fans of the military code: “Hard right, easy wrong.” They’re happy to be entertained and distracted.
But that’s not us, is it? We’re going for something more. We want to improve our craft. We want to grow as creatives and writers. We want to write stronger, truer, deeper stories. We want to push ourselves and stretch ourselves. Otherwise, what’s the point?
So let’s not dwell on our weaknesses, let’s look for our strengths. Let’s discover how strong we are, how far we can go. Let’s push past that first wind and discover the second wind and feel the enlivening energy it can give us.
How do we tap into that second wind? By writing longer than we think we can. By writing more than we think we can. By going back and revising one more time, even though we’d rather quit. By sending that story we love out to another round of submissions. By giving ourselves the satisfaction that comes from grappling with something difficult that we really care about.
Let’s expect—demand—more of ourselves! Let’s give ourselves the gift our second wind. Let’s mine that vein of gold inside us. Write on!
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