What does it take to be a hero? What makes the crowds stand up and cheer for your leading character in your story? Is it the tasks set for them by the Gods? Is it the way they overcome adversity and prevail in the end? What exactly is it that a hero has to have in order to reach down deep into his or her soul and come out shining at the other end of the tunnel?
More importantly: Have you ever realized how much of a hero YOU are?
Yes, that’s right. I said YOU. Think about it, here you are an aspiring author, fighting your way through the wee hours of the night at the keyboard doing battle against the ghosts and demons that keep trying to tempt you into quitting. Their weapons are doubt and fear and your only defense is a thin shield of fragile self-esteem and brittle confidence.
You’re Stronger Than You Think
Think about that shield. Perseus had one when he fought the Gorgon. In the end, he turned that mirror finish on the monster and Medusa couldn’t handle it. She turned herself to stone.
That mirror could do the same to you if you’re unwilling to do what a real hero must do. What really makes a hero is his ability to turn the mirror on himself. What makes the crowds cheer is when they can see the hero facing the truth, dealing with it and breaking free.
If you’re going to lead as a hero or excel as a writer, you have to be truthful and honest with yourself. You have to be fully committed to what you are doing. Because if you’re not? It shows. “Fake it until you make it” only goes so far. You try to fake your craft, try to cut corners or pull the wool over the eyes of your audience and they’ll know.
Truth, Vulnerability and Failure
When we’re in our comfort zone, confidence is easy. We know what we’re doing and there’s no reason to be afraid of failure. Step outside that comfort zone, though, and it’s quite a different story. We’re unsure, we’re vulnerable, we’re afraid of being exposed or laughed at.
Growing up, you may have loved to write. Maybe in school you’d write wonderful stories and showed them to your friends who enjoyed them. But all it took to plant a seed of doubt was one person, be it teacher, parent or friend, or just someone jealous of your talents, to say a single damaging word.
It happens. It happened to me. In the seventh grade I had a teacher question a report I did on Pearl Harbor. One sentence I wrote had her wondering if I had plagiarized it. To this day I can still see her face, and the faces of everyone in class, because this teacher didn’t talk to me about it in private. No, she accused me right out in the open at the front of the class.
All heroes face situations where they’re knocked down. The question is, what do they do next? What do you do next? Do you just lie there? Or do you get up and try again?
If the hero didn’t get up, it wouldn’t be much of a story, would it? Heroes fail. Not only that, heroes make EPIC fails. All the time. Epic fails aren’t easy to get used to, if ever. They hurt and make us want to crawl into a corner and die.
But there comes a point after the wound-licking and pity-parties are done, that the spark inside that wants to live jumps up and moves the hero into motion. The hero looks into the mirror and says, “I don’t want to be like this. I am not afraid and that monster is not going to beat me!”
The Daily Horoscope
I frequently read my horoscope. Sometimes they’re right on the money, other times not so much. A few days ago I got one that was the right on the money kind and it really made me stop and think. No, not just think…it made me think HARD.
Not often a generic horoscope can do that to me.
Here’s what it said:
The project before you is to do something big. The question is do you want to do it? The next question is can you afford not to? The next question is, are you happy? The next question is, are you really happy? Put the answers to all of those questions together, in paragraph form. Read it over. Now add a topic sentence. Now read it again. What conclusions can you draw about the author’s attitude to their work from the sample text you’ve just read? Think carefully about the answer.
That’s pretty heavy stuff, innit? You bet it is. So I’m going to answer those questions here for you today. Is it scary? Yup. I’m not used to exposing such a private side of myself online. But you know what? I wouldn’t be a very good leader here for you all if I didn’t lead by example, so here goes.
- The question is do you want to do it? Yes, I do want to do it. It’s huge and sometimes I feel like I’m going to drown beneath the sheer immensity of it. I want to run and hide, or on a really bad day, just give up altogether. But in the end, I’m called back to it, because to imagine living the rest of my life with a regret just isn’t worth it. Coulda, woulda, shoulda won’t cut it. At times it may seem like I’ve failed, but the real failure would be giving up.
- The next question is can you afford not to? At first my eyes honed in on “afford”. Sheesh, with the economy the way it is my mind goes right to money. But that’s not what this question is about. Mentally and spiritually can I afford not to? And the answer is no.
- The next question is, are you happy? No, not with the current way I’m doing things. For true happiness I can do much better.
- The next question is, are you really happy? Hey! Weren’t you listening? I just said no! Pay attention.
The combined paragraph with topic title:
Do I Really Want to Do This?
The project is really big. Do I really want to do this? Yes, I do want to do it. It’s huge and sometimes I feel like I’m going to drown beneath the sheer immensity of it. I want to run and hide, or on a really bad day, just give up altogether. But in the end, I’m called back to it, because to imagine living the rest of my life with a regret just isn’t worth it. Coulda, woulda, shoulda won’t cut it. At times it may seem like I’ve failed, but the real failure would be giving up. Am I happy? Not with the way things are, they could be much better. BUT…and this is a big but…completing this project won’t be the ultimate key to eternal happiness. There is no arrival, there is no finish line. The kind of happiness I seek is peace of mind more than anything else and knowing that I truly gave this project an honest effort will go a long way in achieving that.
I’m a hero. A reluctant one, but a hero none the less. The very fact that I keep hearing the call and returning says something. And when you hear that call, all you really have to do is just show up. If you couldn’t handle it, you wouldn’t be called for it to begin with. Just keep swimming, right?
Feel free to analyze this little exercise in the comments. I know I’ll be chewing on this one for the rest of the week. Better yet, why don’t you give this little exercise a shot and share it with us? I know there’s a hero in you, too.