Michael Haskins

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

There is no failure except in no longer trying

My last personal post included chapter one of “Stairway to the Bottom,” because I am on deadline to finish the book and couldn’t focus on writing a blog piece. The book cover is done and my editor has the first two hundred pages. Does it surprise anyone that I am still behind? When you’re not surviving off your earnings as a writer, then you must answer the phone, or email, when work comes calling.
Last week I received an email from Reuters News Service in Miami and they asked me to cover a story. Since then it has been followed up with other emails, phone calls and Google searches. Not much time left for writing fiction.
Diana Nyad, the long-distance swimmer, was back in Cuba last Friday to try her attempt to swim from Havana to the Florida Keys again. Last time she didn’t make it. This time she was pulled out of the water due to what is thought to be jellyfish stings. Ms. Nyad recently turned 62, so the fact that she made it close to half way a month or so ago, and went from 6 p.m. Friday to late Saturday before being pulled from the water for a doctor’s evaluation is impressive.
I have sailed from Key West to Havana’s Marina Hemingway a few times and only once was the Gulf Stream flat. Every other time, coming and going, the Gulf Stream had four-to-six foot waves and at night, when it would rain, we sometimes had waves as high as ten feet. It makes for a tough ride in a 36-foot sailboat, so I can only imagine what it’s like for a swimmer. And don’t forget the freighters, Coast Guard Cutters and the smugglers, all using the same waterway.
In fact, I can’t imagine it. If I were in the Gulf Stream late at night, it would be because my wife tripped me overboard! Honestly, between the jellyfish and sharks, as inviting as the water looks, I ain’t going in voluntary.
While I have to wonder what drives Ms. Nyad to do such things, it nice to know she is not bothered by her age and willing to be challenged. I once read there is no failure except in no longer trying. I believe this!
Every time I begin a short story or novel, I wonder about my ability to follow it through to the end. I have to make myself stop focusing on the number of things that could lead to failure and go one. Sometimes going on means less than 250 words a day,(a lot less sometimes) other times it’s not writing anything that moves the story and tossing a day or two’s worth of writing; writing so bad that not even rewriting will save it. Failures? No. Challenges. I don’t know about you, but I need to be challenged – even those times I don’t want to be! Challenged to write better, to look at where the story is going.
Like many things in life (to me, anyway) it is not always the finished product that drives my enthusiasm, but the road I have to travel to get to the end. As great as it is to type THE END on the final page, it saddens me because it is the end of a journey. A loss of friends. Maybe that’s why even my short stories continue my series’ characters. They have become friends that I worry about when I am away from the computer and, maybe, that desire to begin another journey with them is what drives me back to this book-filled room, with note cards and sayings and my country music CD selection.
What more could I ask for, a room full of books, music and my laptop, all to stimulate my imagination.
I leave you with this:
Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited while imagination embraces the entire world – Albert Einstein.

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