The Creative Spark! – Farewell to Deathbed Woes

You’ve heard the deathbed woe: “I wish I had…” So, chase dreams daily—take risks. Risks give rise to successes. Forget about the failures for now. We’ll celebrate them later.

But first, the naysayers. Some people view us as weak-kneed fools. Brother warns us, “Lose the lofty goals.” Charities la-dee-da our desire to televise talent shows. Aunty plans our future as hermits painting abstracts in her basement.

Why? Maybe it’s doubt, fear, jealousy, competitiveness, money, stress, age, or whatever. Naysayers itch to blurt, “I told you so.” Naysayers may get their zero hour. We all fail sometimes. So, how do we fail gracefully? Draft a CV of failures—and celebrate each F, says Helen Sword.

Yes, we all get whacked with flying F’s. I didn’t graduate high school with my class. I got fired after two days as an underage lounge waitress. I failed to get a PhD in math. I failed to get a PhD in anything. So, celebrate. Crack the virgin cocktails and burst balloons.

We all face rejection, too. I didn’t get chosen to go to camp in grade five. Mom and I broke each other’s hearts—and now never talk. My darling supervisor blocks my entry in the faculty.

Other times, we get lucky. Lucky people “leave no stone unturned and follow all kinds of paths” says Ann Blaire (as cited in Sword, p. 175). I lucked out. I aimed to get the silver medallion in math. But I fled the math department—and won a silver medallion in communications instead.

So, chase dreams, celebrate failure, shoo naysayers—in other words, take risks. The more risks, the better the luck.

Helen Sword says take risks with writing, too. She bares the art of risk-taking in her book Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write.

• Take risks; don’t conform.
• Learn the rules—and then break them, says Fabrizio Gilardi (as cited in Sword).
• Or, take writing risks from day one.
• Or, play it safe and bust the rules once you’ve got tenure, says Stephen Ross (as cited in Sword).
• But if you play too safe, once you choose to break the rules, your writing style won’t magically appear, says James Shapiro (as cited in Sword).
• Sadly, peer reviewers slap us into acting like meek conformists.
• Yet, “writers with egos made of glass are unlikely to survive in academia too long” (Sword, p. 178).
• So, don’t feel shame when some brute attacks your writing. Even top academics get their work rejected.
• Instead, prove wrong those who attack your writing. How? Publish a book, says John Heilbron (as cited in Sword).
• Also, rethink criticisms as favorable feedback, says Shanthi Ameratunga (as cited in Sword).
• And remember—luck comes to those who chase opportunities

Take risks, set goals, and wave farewell to deathbed woes. Risk sparks success in writing, academics, and well-being.

In past articles, I begged you to list starry-eyed goals. Yet, I worried my goals were wildcats. Not at all. One of my wildest hatched—to be raised, braised, and gobbled. A paradox? I call it a creative spark!

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