Pulling the Pin

In terms of writing, the phrase pulling the pin characterizes the life of the amateur. The amateur gives up when the work gets hard. They pull the pin because it’s easier than doing the work.

The term ‘pulling the pin’ comes from the days of riding the rails. To uncouple one car from another, the train crew pulled a heavy steel pin out of the coupling mechanism. ~Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

I’ve Pulled the Pin a Hundred Times

I’ve pulled the pin a hundred times. At least a hundred times, possibly more. Even writing here on this site, I’ve pulled the pin when the work got hard.

I pulled it when my email list didn’t budge and when my Twitter feed refused to inch upward. I’ve pulled the pin when my ebook didn’t sell and when my subscriptions didn’t impress my readership.

Even though I finally feel as if I’ve begun the process of turning pro, I still bump hard against the wall at times. I still feel like pulling the pin from time to time. In fact, the pin is always within reach.

But I won’t be pulling the pin again. I won’t be pulling the pin again because it’s too easy. I’ve taken the easy route too many times in my life. There’s nothing waiting for me when I do, at least nothing worthwhile.

I won’t be pulling the pin again because it’s the path of the amateur. My days of playing an amateur’s game are over.

When I was playing an amateur’s game, I was afraid of doing the work. I was afraid that if I really did the work, there still might be nothing waiting for me; that I’d regret doing the hard work of the pro and end up with nothing to show for it.

But here’s what I found….doing the work for what it will get me is the same as pulling the pin.

Doing the Work is the Reward

For years, I had it wrong way around. Fear kept me afraid and all too willing to pull the pin, to throw up my hands in dramatic despair, to blame the mentor who’d lied to me. But all that was a lie I told myself.

I told myself that I didn’t want to be anyone’s fool. I didn’t want to appear foolish in the eyes of my readers, my friends, or my family. I told myself that if I did the work and failed to garner the comments I wanted, the retweets I craved, and the Facebook likes I coveted, I’d be a failure.

Being a failure was a concept that paralyzed me. It still does. It’s an old parental tape that plays in the back of my head sometimes, even 50+ years later. I know it holds no power over me, but it’s still there…waiting for a moment to reintroduce itself to me in a moment of vulnerability.

Failure wants me to take the easy way out. It wants me to give in to despair; to compare myself to other writers and online teachers and judge myself.

Failure wants me to pull the pin. That’s fine.

Failure can wait.


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