|Close-up, Autumn 2014.|
Prepare yourself for a bout of spontaneous writing today, with a touch of role-playing game analogy and some rodent mind control involved, as I talk about life calling, the fear of failure and the barriers we build for ourselves...
In most role-playing games, you start up as a level one adventurer. If you don't take an arrow in the knee, you get to escape a number of situations, fight a number of bad guys, ending up as a skilled explorer. It is of course a metaphore of any life journey, but also of learning, as the aventurer levels up as he learns from his experiences.
Now, another thing you have in most role-playing games, is a class. Or a job, a specialty, an expertise. You are a mage, a warrior, a paladin, a healer, an archer. You start as a level one mage, equipped with a small wooden stick and a "mental control of rodents" spell, and out in the world! Several years later, you may become a level 99 Master Archmage of All Elements, guildmaster of the Epic Congregation of the World Arcanists.
I Am a MageHave you noticed? The level 1 mage is still a mage. He just started out there, so he's got a flammable cotton gown and it takes him a good twelve hours to control a rat's mind. He's going to need some work to level up, but he is a mage.
Now, consider other, real-world "classes": writer, artist, comedian, designer, photographer... Why would you be afraid to call yourself a photographer when you begin? You may be a level one photographer, equipped with a flammable camera and taking a good twelve hours to manage a properly retouched image, but you are still a photographer.
Why does it matter? Because not daring to call yourself what you are may hold you back. Let me tell you my story. Since my youngest age, as I wrote meaningless loops sitting on my tiny desk under the stairs, I am a writer. I composed poems when I was 8, wrote my first murder mystery in Spain, when I was 12, created a fantasy universe with maps and stuff when I was a teenager, and started blogging in my young adult years.
However, I always thought I had to rival with Victor Hugo, or at least, that I needed to be published and recognized by my peers in order to dare call myself a writer. That I had to master the talent. In other words, I wouldn't call myelf a mage until I become a Master Archmage of All Elements. The consequence: I stopped writing. If the text isn't on par with the best, then I'm not a writer. If I'm not a writer, why should I write? Because I expected the best of myself without even learning first, I gave up without even trying.
And, one day, my perspective changed. There is an old saying : "it is by forging that one becomes a blacksmith". How can one expect to be a master blacksmith if he never forges anything? How could I expect to become a writer if I stopped writing? So I decided that I was a level 1 writer. And that I had to keep writing like the mage had to keep trying to control rodents' minds. Do you know what happened since? I participated in two short shorty contests, lost both, finished an Old-Fashioned Murder novella, started a sci-fi novel and drafted down a dozen story ideas. My latest fancy? An old-fashioned sci-fi story à la Jules Verne. I am at least a level 4 writer now, and that's more in a year then I'd dared try in 28.
Trying and failingHow does the mage become a Master Archmage of all Elements? By trying, and failing. He sets his house on fire, gets his ass kicked by a number of Dragons (You Died), but as he keeps trying, he learns. He hones his skill, he levels up. Do you know what's worse than failing? Not trying. I just lost a Utopia short story contest today. And I'm infinitely happier than if I hadn't written it in the first place. All this work I put in thinking about a Utopian world, wording all of it, and writing this probably average piece of fiction, made me level up as a writer.
Why is it important? Because I feel like we live in a world where failure is unacceptable. I don't know about your country, but this is especially the case in the French education system, where children assimilate mistakes with an unredeemable failure, instead of seeing it as what it is: an opportunity to learn. So we stop trying. Because we aren't writers. That's how we stop growing. Out of a fear of failure, out of this ridiculous idea that we can't call ourselves something until we become masters, we limit ourselves.
I don't know if I'll ever become a Master Writer of All Genres, guildmaster of the Epic Congregation of World Novellists, but I am a writer. I am equipped with a flammable pen and it takes me a good twelve hours to write a couple of pages of fiction, but I'll keep trying, failing, levelling up and maybe one day, one of my short stories will win a contest. One of my novels may be published. I may even earn enough money to invite le Fiancé to the restaurant. Who knows. What I know, is that it won't happen unless I keep trying.
What about you? What's your class? Are you a level 1 photographer? Designer? Creator? Artist? Musician? Athlete? Stylist? Whatever is your calling, just keep trying.