A few words about courage

I had intended to write a post about the things I learned in the process of self-publishing my book. And someday I will. Once I figure out what those things are and what they mean. And how to say them.

But that’s for another day. I’m sure you all are as tired of hearing about it as I am of telling you about it. Even so, this post is related to that effort.

Every year, Neil Gaiman writes a wish for the New Year. These posts are unfailingly excellent, in their simplicity and honesty and charm, but also in their ability to inspire the artist in each of us.

Drawing attention to something Gaiman wrote on his blog feels as absurd and presumptuous as re-tweeting something he said on twitter. I mean, really, the man has 1.67 million followers on twitter. Probably more than that read his blog. Is there anyone who hasn’t seen this?

Actually, yes. I suspect there are a few people who read my blog who don’t read his. Who might not even be entirely sure of who he is. In other words, people who don’t read any of the forty-billion genres in which he writes and people who are not writers.

There are two or three. And yes, they read my blog. Probably.

But the main reason I want to share a part of Gaiman’s 2012 post over here is because it struck a very personal chord with me this year, more so even than other years, and that’s saying something. Because this is something I decided for myself last fall. Not to set out to make a mistake, necessarily — I doubt anyone intends to do that — but to be willing to do something that might be a mistake. And do it anyway. With the intention that if it turned out to be a mistake, it would be the most awesome and remarkable and unique mistake in the entire history of– well, of all my mistakes at least. So far.

Hell, Gaiman says it better:

And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.

And it’s this.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Feels amazing to realize Neil Gaiman finally caught up with me. [I’m kidding, people] But it does feel like a small benediction. And sometimes that’s all we need.

The rest of his post — yes, there’s more to it, including wishes from past years — can be found here. Go read it. There’s a reason he has all those followers.

And then go out and make some mistakes of your own. Because I could use the company. But mostly because it feels incredibly good to Do Something.


Filed under creativity, deep thoughts

10 responses to “A few words about courage

  1. Lou

    You did not make a mistake – you started a new career!

    Only good times ahead…


  2. I do know who Neil Gaiman is, but for some reason I never read his blog. /shrug. Thanks for sharing this!


  3. Paul

    Nice post. I don’t know who Neil Gaiman is, or at least I didn’t know until you told me, but the idea of someone making mistakes sounds a lot braver coming from someone who doesn’t have 14 trillion followers…yet. Good luck this year and I intend to read your book as soon as I get an ereader (one of these days no doubt).


  4. Thank you, Paul! I like the idea of that “yet” — what a nice thing to say. But honestly, probably a more accurate description of me is foolhardy rather than brave. I just got a Kindle for my birthday last month. But I find I prefer reading on the Kindle app for MAC (it’s a free download and I’ve been using it for almost two years). They also have one for PCs. B&N has a free Nook app for both as well. I know some people hate to read on a computer, but it’s free so maybe worth a try?

    Melinda, I used to read it more regularly — there’s so much out there, it’s hard to keep up with everything — but I skim regularly and always make a point of checking in around the new year.

    Lou, what can I say. Sometimes it feels like a massive mistake and that every writer I know is shaking their head sadly or rolling their eyes or laughing at me and my pitiful efforts. But mostly it feels empowering, to do something like this on my own. Well, I had help from a few imaginary friends. Invaluable help. But still. I think time will tell whether it’s a mistake. The point is that you (I) have to stop caring about that and just create what you believe are incredible things. Like a leap of faith. But holy guacamole, it’s scary. Nice to have a few good friends cheering me on. Very nice.


  5. Would it be a mistake to leave a comment saying how much I enjoyed your book? Hmmn… maybe I shouldn’t risk it… oh what the hell. I enjoyed your book muchly.


  6. Merry, that’s one of the things I admire about you. Always willing to take a risk. That and the fact that you can drop and give someone 20 or 30 full push-ups at a moment’s notice.

    Thank you. Muchly.


  7. RSS

    I really like your mistakes, KDJ. So happy you went for it.

    Thank you for sharing NG’s wish. I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

    As I look at my life and what makes me happy, I realize that many of those things evolved from actions I feared would be mistakes. If we don’t leap when there is no safety net, we never experience the ecstasy of landing in a new world.


  8. McB

    If I hang out with all these courageous people long enough, maybe some of it will rub off? But it’s heady stuff to know that, if and when I do decide to jump off a cliff, that I know a few people who will cheer me on. Although I suspect they will see it mostly as an opportunity to watch me make a fool of myself and maybe take pictures. But they’ll be cheering.


  9. RSS, you’re right and thank you for the perspective. I’ve done things in my life that were WAY scarier than this. And they turned out to be awesome things. Or at least not mistakes.

    McB, you (along with our other imaginary friends) are a motivating force behind all courageous efforts. I will always cheer you on. But only because I don’t think there *are* any actual cliffs where you live. And thanks for the reminder that it could be SO MUCH WORSE — people could be taking pictures.


  10. Of course we’ll cheer when you jump off the cliff! Um… we might double-check your parachute beforehand, though.