I wrote this article almost a year ago, out of a deep desire to say something meaningful about the glorious agony of trying new things. I submitted it to a blog, but they passed. Well. They asked for a bunch of changes I didn’t feel like making.
Today I came across it again and found it pleasing. I’ll share it here in hopes that it gives you something nice to think about.
When I began telling people I was moving to LA and pursue a screenwriting career, the surprising response was often, “Wow. You’re brave.”
Brave? Huh. I could think of a lot of other adjectives.
Intimidated, yes. Overwhelmed by the odds and the sheer volume of people doing the very same thing as me. Foolish, possibly. But also quite certain that it’s now or never. Bravery never entered my consciousness.
I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty last weekend. I resisted writing about it – the movie’s heady combination of sympathetic characters, gorgeous visuals and captivating music would tempt anyone to daydream about a more adventurous life. It’s a shoo-in for inspirational blogging material.
What captivated me about the movie wasn’t so much the ideal of being more adventurous, but the process of change Walter Mitty went through to get it. Here was this responsible adult, doing his job and taking care of his mom and sister. Being there for people.
But fantasizing about being somewhere else.
Walter’s life wasn’t a bad one. He had a good job that he cared about and did with a quiet but sincere passion. He loved his family, as maddening as they could be.
But ordinary life in itself wasn’t quite enough for Walter. There was still that urge to reach.
To go beyond what was usual and normal and sane for Walter’s everyday existence. To do something hard. In his case, really hard – like flying with an inebriated helicopter pilot who cheated on one of only eight women in Greenland. Clearly a man lacking in judgment.
I don’t think it’s reaching too far to assume we all have that drive to some degree. So what keeps us from stepping outside the comfortable day-to-day and into – say – a Greenland postal helicopter?
I think it’s captured by that phrase: in the making. We don’t get brave overnight. We become brave in the process of taking steps that intimidate us. In the willingness to disrupt a perfectly-fine-but-tame existence we’ve been living and to try something new.
It doesn’t mean EVERYTHING has to be new. Just a step. A choice toward who we want to become.
Walter Mitty was a brave man in the making. It wasn’t an easy process and bravery didn’t come over him suddenly. Actually it was really, really dangerous. Outside the context of a movie, I don’t know how many of us would actually live through what he did. But it gets the point across.
My decision to swap coasts wasn’t motivated so much bravery as by a need to fish or cut bait – following my carefully considered choice to pursue a screenwriting career. Wanting to be a screenwriter is not brave. But writing could be. Shopping a script I love to a variety of producers could definitely be.
Not to spoil the movie, but I think the final Life magazine cover photo at the end of the movie (the loss of which initially sparks Walter’s journey into the unknown) is a clear statement of the beauty and importance of Walter’s ordinary life, even before he took that crazy first step toward adventure. And after all the excitement was over, it’s basically the life Walter returned to.
Walter Mitty came home. A brave man.
So here I am today, turning on my computer and sitting down to write a screenplay that I don’t feel like writing, in pursuit of an elusive goal that I have no guarantee of reaching.
Maybe one day we will go to Greenland. Maybe we’ll even punch a shark. Maybe – and that’s a big maybe – someone will capture it all on camera for us to frame and hang on the wall so when people come over we can tell the exciting story.
Until then, what is the step toward bravery you need to take? What’s your intimidating dream? Are you willing to be a brave man – in the making?
2015 is coming. Maybe this is a good time.