who Is it just me or is flying terrifying to everyone?
It's just me. I know it is. Or rather, it's me and a few other people making up a very small percentage of individuals who fly and feel physically ill at the idea.
Driving though! Driving I have no problems with.
Now logistically, I realize how stupid this is. You have a 1 in 5,000 chance of dying in a car accident. You have a 1 in millions chance of dying on a plane.
I've never been a very rational person, though. Ask anyone I've ever dated.
The emotional realm, people. That's where I tuck in at night.
Which explains why none of these stats keep me from jumping into my car on a daily basis and traipsing off to work. Why I don't become paralyzed with fear behind the wheel desperately needing to turn up the dial on some Beyonce so she can sing me through to my destination. Why I don't feel the need to curl up into the fetal position and cry when my car is pummeled with a windstorm.
Now...why is this?
While I'd like to chalk it up to my anxiety, the truth of the matter is that when I fly I turn over all control to two strangers that I may never see or even speak to. To all those pilots out there who feel that the public doesn't appreciate you–I appreciate you. Me. I do.
See, I'm one of those rare passengers who boards the plane with crazy eyes, scanning about desperately for my day's pilot as I cling to my bags and wonder if it's too late to turn around and run. It's as if my snap assessment of an individual in a pilot's uniform will hold any water when it comes to how well he or she can handle an Airbus in the event of an emergency (hint: it probably won't). Still...I want to see my pilot. I want them to say hello to me with a small twinkle in their eye, like they know what I'm thinking and want to reassure me it's all okay.
Usually they're in the cockpit going through checklists. I appreciate this too.
Control. It’s a pesky mother trucker. I have yet to meet another human who voluntarily gives up all control. Sure there are people who require less control. As a for instance, adrenaline junkies don’t look to lock their hands around the neck of control as they tumble from a plane with nothing more than a parachute to keep them from plunging to their doom. Still, there is probably something they seek to control (or that they wish they DIDN’T seek to control). Finances. Job. Significant others. This is how we are. We're human.
What happens when we lose control?
The fear seeps in.
Fear is the brain’s response to new things or things that go against our safety and well being. On the one hand, that’s really cool.
On the other hand, it’s a very primal response to very modern problems–and it really sucks. I mean...we all have problems. Varying levels of them, sure- but it's something humans have in common.
There are things we can do to deal with this fear response. And we have to, don’t we? The truth is that when we don’t face our fears, they start to build up until we're paralyzed by them. When I was younger I'd read books about old ladies who shut themselves into their homes, never again caring to see the light of day.
I didn’t understand this urge then. There were so many WORLDS out there to explore. There were so many PEOPLE to meet!
Now I understand the appeal. Now that life has roughed me up a bit.
Sometimes the very idea of stepping out of my front door is almost enough to overwhelm me. But I can’t let it. Frankly, neither can you. Or you can but...you shouldn't.
We don’t get to choose when we go or how we go (usually).
We only get to choose what to do with our time here.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flight to book.
You know what feels really good?
Those everyday, ordinary situations we often find ourselves in.
As humans, we’re all creatures of habit. Even the business executive who eats tiny little nobodies like us for breakfast has a routine–it’s eating tiny little nobodies likes us for breakfast. Or perhaps it’s what he or she brushes their teeth with. Maybe it’s the circuits he or she utilizes at the gym after a tough day. Perhaps it’s the drink he or she orders at the bar for happy hour.
Most of us don’t even recognize what our routines are until they’ve been upset.
I certainly don’t. It’s why they’re called routines.
And while doing the same thing every single day can have some truly positive effects, so to can being pushed, pulled, or dragged out of our comfort zones.
Traveling is an excellent way to dismantle patterns. If you’ve ever traveled, you probably already know this to be true. That’s because when it comes to traveling, we open ourselves up to a lot of potential disasters. From late flights to strange cities to foreign languages, traveling to a new place can be a modern day adrenaline rush. That’s right–now you don’t have to go bungee jumping to get the blood pumping. Just book yourself a 44-minute layover in Salt Lake City.
Most of us cling to routines out of fear. We’re not necessarily conscious of it–the fear is deeply wired in our brains from either a nature or a nurturing experience. As we grow, we establish routines as a way of protecting ourselves from that thing that we fear. This can actually have an adverse reaction, causing us to miss opportunities. After all, it’s only natural to assume that we’re capable of controlling outcomes–it’s part of why we establish routines in the first place!
Guess what? Outcomes aren’t always preventable. Don't believe me? Whammo: examples.
Brushing your teeth twice a day won’t stop you from getting cavities.
Driving well won’t keep you from getting into an accident.
You could eat well all your life and still get cancer or heart disease.
You see where I'm going with this.
Ruts. Routines. They’re there to keep us safe and on target. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that there’s something wrong with your rut.
It’s also important to keep in mind that life isn’t meant to be lived within a bubble of safety. As humans, we’re meant to experience the world and to marvel at what it offers us. Getting out of our comfort zones forces us to use parts of our brain that otherwise lie idle, gathering dust.
The fact of the matter is, we’re all going to die someday.
And while I’ll be proud to look back at all of the roots I grew, I'm pretty sure that, that sparkle in my eye will be due to the fact that I seized opportunities to live.
One thing that paralyzed me as a writer, for years, was the idea of sharing my work.
That’s a lie.
One thing that paralyzes me about being a writer (present tense) is the idea of sharing my work.
There are those who say writer’s block is simply a matter of severe anxiety. In some instances, I fully agree. This is one of those instances. In fact, the idea of sharing my work with the general public can send me into such terror that writing itself becomes impossible. After all, what could I possibly write that everyone will love?
The answer? Nothing.
I will never write something that everyone in the whole entire world loves and agrees with. It doesn’t happen for the Poet Laureate and it sure as hell won’t happen for me.
And actually, while we’re going down this road, let’s clarify further.
Not only will some people hate my writing to begin with. Some people that start out loving my writing will come to despise it.
Heck, even you’ve been there. Perhaps not with me, but with another creative.
Think of, for instance, that new song on the radio. Gosh, it’s really catchy. Every time it comes on, you can’t help but sing along. Then, a month or so in, it starts to feel a little old. By month three, you swear that radio stations are tracking your movements and only playing the song when you get into your car. Gah! YOU HATE THIS DAMN SONG, TURN IT OFF!
The reality of writing anything, and then sharing it, is that you will encounter a fair amount of criticism. Some immediate. Some down the road. But hey! You did something a lot of people are far too terrified to ever do. That includes your critics.
Criticism is made worse by the internet. The anonymity that haters today can have is rivaled by… nothing.
Frankly, you shouldn’t give a flying bird about any of it.
Being a writer – being an artist – being someone who creates – is reliant upon your ability to kiss comfort goodbye and just make.
And that is something both beautiful and unique about artists of every kind. This is art, my friend. This isn’t rocket science or brain surgery. This isn’t perfection. There is no right or wrong answer. This is expression. This is beauty. There is never complete comfort in the unknown.
We kiss comfort goodbye the moment we choose to create.
Is your inability to write caused by a lack of known factors? An inability to know and control the outcome?
I’m here to tell you that, that will never happen. As an artist, as a writer, you must release the anxieties that follow sharing your work with others. In doing so, you may find that your writer’s block falls a bit by the wayside, too.
“Write what you know.”
I can’t tell you how many times this advice has been lobbed at me. Sometimes I feel like it’s all I can do as a writer to fight my way through the phrase. First of all, I don’t feel like I know much of anything. Secondly, that which I do positively, absolutely, no doubt about it know…well, I find that I don’t bloom with desire to share it. Any of it. I know a lot about chocolate, but I don’t want to write about that. I know how it feels to be bullied as a teen, to suffer debilitating depression, but I don’t want to write about that, either. I know that there are people that can – that DO. I applaud them.
But that’s not me.
And frankly, dear Writer, it might not be YOU either.
If people only wrote what they knew, there are a lot of really amazing works that wouldn’t exist. Part of writing is exercising the imagination, thinking creatively, researching and learning and trying and failing and picking yourself up and starting again.
Maybe you suffered from disease. Perhaps you were abused. There’s a chance you lived despite horrible odds. Maybe you had your heart shattered into a million pieces by the person you thought was “The One.” If you want to share that story and you want to find and provide support for fellow survivors – bam. Write your story. I can’t wait to read it.
Maybe one or all of those things happened to you, but what you want to write about is a serial killer or a dude on roller skates or penguins. Then write about THAT. Just because you don’t have personal experience dealing with a serial killer or a dude on roller skates or penguins doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about it. Write what you want to write because that’s what is going to be passion-filled and beloved by your followers (or future followers, as it may be).
Perhaps your writer’s block is due to not giving yourself artistic license to write about whatever the hell you want.
Quit asking for permission.
Stop looking for a way to incorporate what you know into your story.
When I typed 1620 into Google, I was thinking in terms of the year. I had pictured corsets made of whale bone and gentlemen throwing their waist coats over a puddle for their lady friend to walk over. Romance. Chivalry. Historical. I can write about that. Here’s what I got:
I laughed. I actually backed out of the search and was prepared to type in something far more safe. Victorian, perhaps, where the strangest thing I would get would be an image of a house. Unfortunately, as a writer, you have to write about things outside your comfort zone in order to become better. I will probably never write a non-fiction book about cars. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be able to write a few words about them. In fact, learning to write a few words about cars, even if I don’t write directly about them but rather, tie it in to my overall concept, is going to make me better. I find that when I’m writing only a handful of words (25, 50, 100) about things I don’t understand, I’m much more careful- each one counts.
Did I have any desire to do a writing exercise this morning wherein I had to create 50 words about the car pictured above? No. I wanted romance, damn it.
So I did both. I did something solid about cars – a sales pitch with a love angle. Exactly 50 words. No more. No less. Not great. Not terrible. You have to make a concept work for you. Be willing to think outside the box.
Now it’s your turn. Please feel free to share your 50 words in the comments. Trust me when I say that this not a judgmental space.
Just like first love, this car is strong, sturdy, and prepared to steal your heart. Recently restored, it is suited for collectors, first time owners or old souls. Relive your childhood or make memories to share with your children. Take it for a test drive today – you won’t regret it.
Allison Janda is a self-published author. She has three dogs, one of which acts more like a cat.