Wow. This one’s tricky and will be the last post.
When I was younger, I experienced a couple of instances where I was genuinely worried that I might be either killed or violently injured. That was, in fact, a large reason why I took up martial arts.
Now, unfortunately, I’m staring down the barrel of a potentially slower death. I’ve recently been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma/cancer. Yes, we’ve tried all the options and nothing has worked beyond buying a couple of extra months.
Martial arts often has an underlying ethos around confronting potential death with grace and honour. Which is easy when you’re on the mat, but harder when it’s reality.
When you’re faced with sudden death, there’s not a lot of time to think. It all happens too fast. How you handle it physically and mentally is related to your past experiences and training. You just…react and try to survive in that short, sharp, painful moment. Then, afterward, you deal with the fallout of post traumatic stress etc.
If you’re wise, you take your survival and run with it - absorb the wake-up call and stop fucking about with your life; start to DO the things on your bucket list before it’s too late.
When you’re presented with the uncertainty of a potentially lingering death, there’s too much time to think. And no clear deadline. You start to regret the things you never had a chance to do; or worry about how your loved ones will cope without you; or wish you could help to make it easier for family and friends.
Then there’s the problem of Denial. I have a huge To Do List for my writing career but motivation is tricky right now. Denial makes it hard to believe my planned next 7 books won’t happen. Death isn’t in my face this exact minute, and who wants to believe it, anyway? It’s also difficult to do anything when it feels ultimately pointless.
Which is where you, as a human and a writer, need to make some decisions now – BEFORE you’re faced with the prospect of either form of end.
If you are sitting there, not writing (or not doing anything you have on your wish-list) because you’re afraid of ‘what people will say’ or whether your work will be ‘recognised/successful’, then remember:
If you die without ever writing what you need to say, the world is a worse place because of it.
If your words help just one person get through a tough day, then they were worth writing.
If your story will help one lonely child or dying adult feel understood, then get your pen out, now.
Don’t let fear of people stop you from contributing.
Don’t let fear of ‘career-dying’ stop you from sharing yourself with the world.
Your career won’t end/die if you make a mistake or write one truly terrible story. The only way to end your dream is to stop writing.
And, one day, when you are gone… your words and thoughts might be the only slivers of you left for your family and friends to cling to and treasure.
We take our lives and loved ones so much for granted it’s ridiculous.
Mortality gives meaning to life. Use that knowledge wisely. Get off your arse and do things. Learn new skills. Help people make the most of their lives. Hug people more often.
Learn how people think and create characters who think differently from you. Then learn from them.
Be the person, the parent, the lover, the friend, the writer, that you’ve always wanted to be.
Be kind. Be generous. Be more than you thought you could.
Dying is difficult, messy and painful. But dying without living, first, is even worse.
You won’t ever regret being more, but you will regret not trying to be.
When you write THE END on your story, or your life, know that you gave it your best shot; lived and died with grace and honour that would make your sensei/master/friends/family proud of you.
I live in Australia - which tells you I have a sense of humour. We're a self-deprecating people, we Aussies. My aim is to, one day, vanish in a blinding flash of enlightenment. In the mean time, I'm doing my best to learn as many