You can’t be afraid to slay the dragon.
This is what Mark Messier said about getting the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup. When I read this quote, I think of St. George and the dragon and how maybe it would be better for St. George not to slay the dragon – because if he did, he’d be out of a job.
I have this quote on my desk because it says something to me that all of us – as artists of any kind, as human beings – need to remember. We can’t be afraid of success. You know what I mean, you’ve been there.
I certainly have.
It’s scary, especially after working at something for years and years (like I have with writing), to get to a place where it’s possible to succeed. But because you get used to plodding along, using excuses like “That editor was having a bad day” or “It’s just not right for them” or “Maybe next time,” maybe you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to win. Maybe an agent or an editor says “Send me your manuscript” and you don’t do it. Maybe you see a contest that is exactly right for the idea you’re working on, but you don’t enter. Maybe a friend or an acquaintance says, “I’d like to read your manuscript and if I like it, I’ll send it to my agent (or editor)” and you don’t do it.
You don’t consciously say to yourself, I’m not doing this because I’m scared of success, but that’s often what it’s about.
I said to myself, I’m writing, that’s what this is all about. I don’t care if I never get published, I just love the writing. That was my way of avoiding success.
So every morning when I sit down at my computer, I look at Mark’s quote and I say to myself, get that manuscript out there. Finish that book. Try to write something you’ve always wanted to. Send the book to contests. Send it out for reviews. Just do it.
Because Mark said it to the Rangers when he got there from Edmonton and realized they were good enough to win the Cup, they just didn’t have the will. They hadn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1940 and they were used to losing. Mark told them they had to stop being scared and believe in themselves, in their abilities, in their talent, in their teammates. And then he went out and proved it to them.
And if the Rangers can do it after 54 years, so can you.
So don’t be afraid to slay your dragon, whatever it is. You can do it. Really.