I stopped by my friend Jason’s office the other day. I hadn’t seen Jason since last spring, but I passed his office and noticed a light was on, so I knocked. Jason is pushing to turn in the final draft of his latest non-fiction book. It’s a historical account of two shipwrecks, and if this book is as good as his last one, readers are in for a treat. Jason has a way of writing about history that makes you feel as though you’re reading a novel. The characters are well drawn, the descriptions of place keenly observed. But even though his editor loves the pages he’s turned in so far, Jason confessed he’s still nervous about his writing. When I knocked, he was revising a paragraph he’d been working on all afternoon.
We started talking about this desire we both share to push ourselves to our limits. We agreed that by some accounts, we’re already successful: we’re married to nice people, we have nice kids. If we wanted to, we could call it a day. But something drives us to keep pushing; something within us won’t rest until we’re driven ourselves to the brink–which can be unsettling for the people around us. But here’s what we want them to understand: all that anxiety and nashing of teeth, all the fretting whether we’ve taken on too much, whether we’re in over our heads–it’s all part of the process. Because if we weren’t worrying whether or not we could do it, we’d wouldn’t be challenging ourselves. All the anxiety and self doubt, all the screeching of steel wheels on the rails that send sparks flying means we’re pushing ourselves to our outer limits. And that’s exactly where we want to be.