“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Brick walls. We all have them: Those tough, seemingly insurmountable, in-your-face challenges that seem tailor made to mock and defeat us. The ones that make us feel they’re too high, too hard for us to climb. The ones hat make us want to give up.
I don’t know what the biggest brick wall in your writing life is. It may be finishing the first draft of a project that seems to be dragging into infinity. It may be revising a project that’s limping and sagging when it should be singing and dancing. It may be getting work you love and believe in published in the face of repeated rejections.
No, I don’t know what your writing brick wall is. But I can just about guarantee that you have one. I know I do. Because if we aren’t facing a brick wall in our writing, then we’re not probably working hard enough or aiming high enough.
So what’s the takeaway from Randy Pausch’s inspiring yet challenging comment? To my mind, it’s this: The brick walls we face aren’t external, they’re internal. They’re not outside us, they’re inside us. They’re not erected by an unfair, indifferent, everything-is-stacked against us world — the bricks are made of our own resistance, and inertia, our own fears of failure and success.
“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” Edmund Hillary said this long before Randy Pausch. We are the brick wall. We are the mountain. And if this is true, then we need to forget about all those supposed barriers outside us and concentrate on the only ones that really matter: those voices and fears that tell us we don’t have what it takes to do what we want to do.
If our wall isn’t made of bricks, but mistaken beliefs, how do we proceed? The only way to climb the real brick wall, the real mountain, is to realize that our feelings aren’t facts and to fight through whatever inadequacy or inertia is in our way. And the most reliable tools in our kit bag to do this are habit, help, grit and gratitude.
All this is simple, but not easy. If it were easy, everybody would be at the top of the mountain and over the wall. Not easy, but then we’re not easy riders. So let’s lace on our climbing boots and all write on!*
* Here’s a brick wall I just climbed: I somehow lost this post and had to reconstruct it entirely from memory. I think I made it even better the second time around.