I’ve grown to appreciate Han Solo as a bearer of no-frills wisdom. You might remember this scene from The Empire Strikes Back. The Empire has the Millennium Falcon in hot pursuit, and the hyperdrive doesn’t work. Only Han’s wild piloting stands between them and capture. He decides to head for an asteroid field. Leia protests. Chewbacca bellows. John Williams’ score tenses. Threepio exclaims that successfully navigating an asteroid field is “approximately 3,720 to 1!” Han leans forward. “Never tell me the odds!” And in they go.
The true beauty of this is that Han knows it’s insane. “We’re going to get pulverized!” Leia points out. His line about “never tell me the odds,” doesn’t mean that he doubts the odds or the risks, but that paying attention to those odds – those narrow margins and those pesky details – will only jar his concentration and his confidence. And might get them all killed in the process.
And, really, he doesn’t have time to think about it anyway.
This is the mantra I find myself shouting to the Voice of Doubt when it surfaces around my writing – like a very unhelpful a Greek chorus. It will say things like:
“You’ve wasted ten years of your life buried in novels that have gone nowhere.”
“You should have written more and published stories in college.”
“You’ll never get anywhere – do you have any idea how competitive the market is?”
“You’re going too slow!”
Seriously, I don’t have the time to listen, either.
I can take this apart symbolically:
I’m Han in the pilot’s chair, making crazy daredevil maneuvers around asteroids to escape Imperial ships. My writing (or more specifically the novel) is the Falcon. The Voices of Doubt are Leia, Chewie and most importantly Threepio. The deadlines and the fear and the Anxiety are the TIE fighters and the Star Destroyers. Time is the asteroid field.
I don’t have to look at it this way, but methinks it’s a nice illustration. What really matters is that “Never tell me the odds” is really just a nifty way of saying “Shut up, already! I have a job and I’m going to do it!”
This is why I’ve realized I have to be careful about what I read, which messages I’m taking in from the world – which nurture and encourage my creativity, and which are better set aside for the future.
Or simply not feeling that weird sense of guilt about giving up on a book that was recommended to me, or that I thought I should read.
I don’t need advice on querying, finding an agent or the publishing process right now. Will it nourish my creativity on a day to day basis? No. Will it inspire me? No. Will it help me write or finish or edit the novel? A resounding nope. So why worry about it? Why go looking for it until I need it?
I sound like a broken record – repeating this over and over in subsequent blog posts. I need to be reminded often, frequently, daily that I am not Threepio in this situation. Threepio doesn’t get the job done. In fact, Threepio gets switched off if he talks too much.
That’s it. Go ahead. Switch off the droid. You’ll wonder why you hadn’t done it sooner!
In his writing memoir, On Writing, Stephen King gives simple, no-frills advice about the craft. Pertinent to this post is what he says about “shutting the door” or rather, shutting out the noisy world and all its distractions. He goes one step further and blasts Metallica. I do something similar – and plug Two Steps from Hell into my ears.
Suddenly, there is no Threepio, just the soundtrack. Just the asteroid field and a wild ride. The ship might get a little bruised, scorched and battered, but I can fix it later.
The odds on that look pretty good from this angle!