What It Takes

What It Takes

Fear, Golightly, Python

By Callie Oettinger | Published: August 19, 2011

Two weeks ago, Jeremy Brown asked if going “after the ideas that scare [Steve], because that’s where the remarkable is hiding” carries over to my work. Have been thinking about it since then.

I’m not out in the jungle hunting Scary.

Scary pops up on its own—often falls into two categories—and I figure it out from there.

#1: People Scary

Every now and then there’s a project that I want to do and, though I feel like someone’s yanking my gut up through my throat, I go ahead. I ignore that pulling because the project  gives me an opp to try to something new, whatever it is—and I jump. And then I always end up with Holly Golightly‘s mean reds:

“The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.”

And I end up paranoid and looking over my shoulder and not sleeping and afraid of being in contact with my client because every bit of contact is a double shot of toxic.

And I don’t do my best work. And in the end, even though the client and/or his/her staff freak me out, it is my fault for eating the apple. Looked good—even though I knew it was poisonous.

So if Scary is paired with a person/s in addition to a project . . . . No thank you very much.

#2: Project Scary

This is where I introduce one of my favorite exchanges in Monty Python’s Life of Brian even though I’ve offered no lead up to why I’m sharing it (Stick with me. Will get to it.):

Brian: Excuse me. There’s been some sort of mistake.

Roman: We’ll sort that out later.

Eric Idle’s character: Oh, that’s a good one. We’ll sort that out later, after you’ve been crucified. Typical bloody Romans, eh?

Roman: Now you can shut up.

Eric Idle’s character: Or what, I’ll have to give up being crucified in the afternoons?

And then they break out into the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” as they are all hanging off crucifixes, with Idle’s character reminding “Nothing comes from nothing.”

It’s easier to handle the pain, hanging with Eric Idle’s Life of Brian character, than it is to speak up—easier to turn down a project because I’m scared and then deal with the pain of seeing someone else succeed. Easier to do nothing.

These days, I jump at Scary more often than I used to because I’ve learned that Scary always takes me to a different level. It makes me work harder and I end up on the better side in the end.

Another Eric Idle insert:

In the interview here, Idle talks about going on the Tonight Show with the Monty Python crew. Well, they do their thing, which usually cracks people up. With the Tonight Show audience? Crickets. Not a laugh. Nothing.  Their response? They ran outside laughing. “It was the funniest thing in the world. . . Nothing’s funnier than when you don’t get the laugh,” said Idle.

Personal Scary example insert:

When Steve asked me to start writing for his site, I was scared.

Moment of truth: I have a degree in Creative Writing, yet I’m terrified to write—a drummer afraid of loud noises.

Idle can laugh about not getting a laugh, but I struggle with it. I need to hop in a cab with Holly and head to Tiffany’s.

I’ve written for others for a bit, but not under my own name—under theirs.

And then I started writing for Steve’s site. I figured I ought to be able to do the work if I was working with Steve, so I started writing.

And when I started writing, that Muse Steve talks about all the time started visiting. I used to stare at the computer, blocked. And then by starting to write, the blocks started coming down and the Muse started hanging out more often. And she reminded me that whatever it is, the more I do it, the less scary it is—the better I get at it.

But, ya know what? When I’m done writing this post, I’m still going to send it off to Steve and Shawn to make sure they’re cool with it because I still sleep with a nightlight. But—I know I’m getting better and the old Scary is laughable and the new versions will be manageable.

Posted in What It Takes

5 Responses to “Fear, Golightly, Python”

  1. August 19, 2011 at 6:32 am

    Wow, thanks Callie! This is a great post (and you’re a great writer, bravo), and I’m struck yet again by the hub your team has tapped into.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s writing, finding and connecting people, or training one’s body for war; the only way to get remarkable results is on the other side of discomfort, pain, and fear.

    But those labels are temporary. Seth Godin said it recently, with:

    … it used to be hard for you to speak to ten people, and now it takes a hundred or a thousand for you to feel those butterflies. Because not only do you get used to it, you thrive on it.

    And this:

    Make big promises.

    Burn your boats.

    Set yourself up in a place where you have few options and the stakes are high.

    Focused energy and serious intent will push you to do your best work. You have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. (Better than the alternative).

    That deadlift used to be heavy, now it’s your warmup. I still hate the idea of bothering people about my book, but I jump into the discomfort anyway. Might as well, because just putting a toe in sucks too, and that won’t get me anywhere.

    Mark Twight and his team are conducting a great project out in Salt Lake City called Gym Jones. They’re attacking the limits of what the human body (structure, muscles, mind, spirit) can do. This is from Mark’s essay “Twitching”:

    Burn the bridge. Nuke the foundation. Back yourself up against a wall. Have an opinion one way or the other, get off the fence and rip it up. Cut yourself off so there is no going back. Once you’re committed the truth will come out. You ask about security? What you need is uncertainty. What you need is confusion; something that forces you to reinvent yourself, a whip to drive you harder.

    This stuff all sounds pretty scary.

    But I’m thrilled–Resistance is terrified.

    Thanks again, Callie.

  2. Scott
    August 19, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Bravo.

  3. August 19, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Callie,
    I see you’re a fan of Graham Norton too. :) I saw this when it aired and loved it. How perfect you brought it out here.
    When we get those goose bump making kinds of things in front of us, hard to know if it is divine go and get it, or hey, this is not for the weak at heart.. and it could bite you.
    Maybe practice is the only way to know.
    Engage or no?
    It’s a constant choice, and a translation of goosebumps, yes?
    I tend to think it’s also like stage fright. If things didn’t matter so much to us, we would not even notice. And noticing is better than not IMHO.
    Brava for this post.
    All best,
    Jan
    I sleep with a nightlight too. :)

  4. August 20, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Callie: Good writing, this. Useful insight. Sort of like what Steve says about ‘Going deep.’

  5. August 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Go funny or go home! This was a great way to end my Sunday night in Atlanta!
    Thanks for the post Callie.

    You rock!!!!