Is taking off more important than landing?

26.Sue (2)

By Susan Oakey-Baker

I procrastinate. My thesis adviser said he’d never seen anyone produce so much at the eleventh hour. The more meaningful the task, the more there is to lose, the more vulnerable I feel, the more I procrastinate, until I become paralyzed.

I suffer from the usual barriers; fear of failure, hung up on perfectionism.

Imposed deadlines are effective.

But that feeling of taking off, of committing to your heart’s longing, is unbeatable. When I rock climb and stretch up past my protection, into the scary place, every cell in my body quivers until I land safely on the next hold. When I load my brush with loud paint and boldly swipe the canvas I have worked on for months, not knowing whether I will love it or hate it, I hold my breath. When I ink the first sentence of a story and re-read it dozens of times, I sweat blood.

Life is all about taking off without knowing exactly where you are going to land.

People have asked me how I knew it was time to send my book to the publisher. There was not one defining moment. I think of when we learn to walk. We crawl first. Then we pull ourselves up to standing, and we plunk back down. Up. Down. Then we stay up and we tremble forward. One step. Fall. Do it all over.

I sent my manuscript to a dozen publishers and received a dozen rejection letters. But one editor suggested I submit to a publisher she knew and they accepted my story.

We practice our take offs many times a day. It’s what makes us feel alive. Sometimes we land gracefully, many times we crash, but the important thing is we have the courage to keep taking off.

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
COME TO THE EDGE!
And they came,
and he pushed,
And they flew

-CHRISTOPHER LOGUE,
“COME TO THE EDGE,” NEW NUMBERS, 1969

Susan Oakey-Baker is a writer, teacher, artist and guide living in Whistler. Her book, Finding Jim, published by Rocky Mountain Books, was launched at the 2013 Whistler Writers Festival. Her current novel, set on Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, will hopefully arrive before she turns 50, and be launched at the 2016 Whistler Writers Festival. Visit Susan at susanoakeybaker.com.