I’ve noticed the myth of Icarus popping up a fair bit lately, and I couldn’t help but think about it in my own dopey sort of way. Most everyone has some sort of ultimate dream-goal they’d like to achieve (so says the guy who wants to become a relatively well-known author), and I think it’s safe to say those dream-goals usually exist at some sort of lofty heights and require a great deal of hard work and sacrifice. It’s Obvious Day here at Misadventures in Fiction, in case anyone hasn’t noticed.
To recap briefly: Icarus soared too high, the sun melted the wax binding his wings together, and he fell to his death. A cautionary tale, no doubt, of how dangerous pride can be. As dangerous as sweeping generalizations may be, I think it’s safe to say Icarus’ fall is the most well-remembered detail. But what about the rest of Daedalus’ warning? He also warned Icarus to not fly too low. In order to escape successfully, Icarus would have to find the perfect height at which to fly; not proud and close to the sun, but without holding his head low so as to not be swallowed up by the sea. Finding such a balance is something that can be applied to pretty much anything in life, but we can safely say I’ll be focusing on finding that balance in creative adventures (and misadventures). I’m not speaking as an expert on the topic, as I was accused of being my own worst enemy yet again tonight. Whoops.
Being creative means taking a lot of risks. Putting work out there that may very well feel like a piece of its creator’s soul, knowing full-well it will likely be picked apart to a potentially brutal degree, is far from easy. It’s the only way to potentially achieve publication, acceptance to a gallery, and so on. Finding the right balance of feeling ready to send something for consideration without being either paralyzed by fear nor overly confident is quite difficult.
The easy first focus is pride, and the first example that springs to mind (I’m a little sad to say) is “Death at Teatime”. After the first rewrite and a fair bit of editing, I know I was very proud of the story. Perhaps, to a degree, I was right in that pride, but I also wonder now if I didn’t place too much confidence in that piece. Perhaps I flew too high in that case, sending it off rarely and expecting good news. As “Death at Teatime” continued to be met with rejection, the proverbial sun melted my wings and I fell hard. My writing halted, and I fixated on this one story instead of trying to steady myself and keep working. There are certainly many possibilities for other projects to work on, send off, and revise for additional efforts, but instead I continued along with this fall. I know a good few people who have experienced similar situations. There’s certainly a healthy level of pride that should go along with the creative process. Enough to keep moving with the work but not too much so as to decide nothing could go wrong, or that it’s certain to be accepted without question.
Flying too low, however, is no less dangerous. I speak as someone who failed to take many risks in regards to my writing (or many other things, but we’ll not dig into that pit of skeletons here for the sake of everyone’s sanity). The life of an artist, as I said above, requires some level of risk that goes hand-in-hand with putting work out there to be judged of its worthiness of publication or display. It’s really easy to encase oneself in a protective bubble of fear and doubt, creating but never sharing or submitting work, and that sort of path leads to the same ultimate failures brought on by hubris: an inevitable fall.
Some advice to go with this, all of which I could benefit from (especially lately) – remember to treat your work with love, but know that it’s still work at the end of the day. It’s a job done as part of a labor of love, but it’s crucial to remember that it’s still a job. It’s still something that will require so much effort, and that effort can and will be met with failure. Those failures are defining moments, but it’s up to us as creators to determine if those moments are used for learning purposes or for the sake of wallowing in self-pity. Finding this balance is damn difficult, and if anyone ever comes up with some sort of easy route to do so I’d be happy to pay for such information (which is only made funnier because I am the brokest of broke in all of the broke-dom; I say this in jest, and clarify in the event my mother starts responding with “Are you okay with money?”). For now, however, I think it’s part of the excitement to strive for such a balance on my own. It requires me to force myself to send more writing off, but to accept that not everything will be taken in as a treasure, all while demanding I actually do something with my writing other than just sitting on it forever.
Stay awesome, folks, and continue to chase those dreams. Just, you know, don’t fly too close or too far from the sun.