Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Throwing the Knapsack

Now that I'm slowly but surely trying to work my way back into a routine that includes at least a couple of hours of reading for pleasure every week, I'm a little overwhelmed by the number of books vying for my attention. I have a habit of buying tons of books in random spurts, knowing full well I probably won't be able to get to all of them for years.

In the last few months I finished two books that came out shortly after mine and are complementary to the story I covered: The Futures by Emily Lambert, and The Asylum by Leah McGrath Goodman. I've had the great honor of meeting and/or talking to both of these authors and loved reading what they had to say about other aspects of the world I used to work in. Now, however, I'm ready for a little break from business reading.

So last night I scanned my enormous bookshelf (that's it, to the right... it's two rows deep on all levels -- and if you want to know what in the hell that crazy bird statue is, you'll have to wait for my next book!) and my eyes came to rest upon Brisingr. I bought this novel when it came out in September 2008 and still haven't touched it -- how sad is that? It's the third book in a fantasy series that revolves around a boy and his dragon, and so I figured that's about as far away from Corporate America as you can get. Ding ding ding... we have a winner. But then a bright yellow book on the top shelf seemed to call to me, and I decided to pull it down. It was Happier -- a gift from my Aunt Sue a few years ago. It was written by one of my cousin's professors at Harvard, Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches an extraordinarily popular class about happiness, of all things.

While I apologize to poor Brisingr for giving it the brush-off once again, I am really glad I picked Happier as my next read. I am LOVING it so far -- it's exactly what I needed to motivate myself for my next big project (the aforementioned book). It also inspired a great conversation with my husband last night, as well as all sorts of blog post ideas -- including today's about "throwing the knapsack."

What that phrase refers to (in Happier) is a fictional hiker whose path is suddenly blocked by a high barrier. The hiker only has a knapsack with him, and he decides to throw it over the barrier. Now he has no choice but to devise a plan to get himself over to the other side, too.

Professor Ben-Shahar gives a few examples of famous people who "threw the knapsack" -- people like Thomas Edison and John F. Kennedy who publicly made huge promises (the lightbulb! a man on the moon!) and declared aggressive deadlines by which they'd complete their tasks... even though their chances of success at the time seemed very slim.

These stories resonated with me, because I have learned that I am definitely the kind of person who needs to throw her knapsack in order to really commit to a goal. I've always had a huge fear of failure, but an even bigger fear of not doing something I say I'm going to do. So in August 2007 when I left the financial services industry to try and make a 180-degree career switch and work on getting an agent and publisher for my book, I told all of my closest friends and family members what my intentions were. I asked people I respected if they'd review a draft of my book proposal over Thanksgiving, so I would have to be done with it by then. I promised my husband that if nothing had come from my efforts on the book within a year, I'd return to The Man. (Nothing did come of the book within a year, by the way... but my redbox gig fell into my lap just in the nick of time!)

More recently I started realizing that I was stuck in a creative rut. I felt so overwhelmed by all of the things I could be doing that I wasn't being truly productive on any front. I knew I needed another big goal to kick my behind into gear. That's why I made the promise publicly on this site -- both to myself and to awesome readers such as yourself -- that I would start posting here again every day. I've also thrown down the gauntlet on my second book -- I will write it, dammit! I must.

With that, I must ask you to prepare for a lot of soul-baring on this site in the coming months. While I definitely have plenty of silly and/or lighthearted posts in the works, I'm understanding more and more that I'm meant to be writing about topics that are not always so easy to tackle... and then subsequently share with others. But the reward (for me) is greatest when I'm brutally honest and in turn hear from others who relate to how I'm feeling or what I'm going through. So move over Jack Handy, e's Deep Thoughts are a-comin'!

'Cause this here is real!

I'll end with one of my favorite quotes that sums up the whole "throwing the knapsack" idea:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it!
Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.
- Goethe

- e


MommaLove said...

Hi Erika! Just caught up on your blogs for the last couple of months... well, really since the end of LOST and your book writing process began. I originally found you through LOST (which I STILL am in mourning for - and don't admit that to very many people - LOL!), and have enjoyed all of your writings since that time. Didn't realize you were "back up and runnin'"! Pleased you are writing the blog again on a consistent basis... I enjoy your style! I too got distracted with this silly thing we call "life" (HA!), so had not checked in for quite a bit. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences! I will now make my own promise to come back more often!! Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about getting to Brisingr. It won't be resolved until the 4th installment so you have plenty of time. Chris P. does a great job of recapping the first 2 books so you won't be lost when you finally get to it. Long read but you will be left waiting for the conclusion.