The Dream Machine – STEP 9: LIFT OFF!
So this is it – and just in time for Christmas: the last step before setting out towards the New Year and a glimmer of springtime and the lengthening of days not too far off. Resolute, confident, motivated, the beholder of options should the path become tricky, hopeful, strong and – why not – with just that little pinch of cockiness in your attitude.
This springtime will be yours. And to make it thus, there’s only the last step to cover. Step 9: THE STEP. So as things draw to a close and my mind is filled with images of you all daring to reach your dream, I’m reminded of more than twenty years ago.
I was a hopeful twenty-two year old. At sixteen I’d decided that my life would be an adventure and, having had a fair taste already of what adventure was all about – both very high and very low, I thought I’d just check with someone in the know. Freshly settled in Paris, I’d heard of a bookshop called Shakespeare & Co near the Notre Dame. Running the store was no other than Walt Whitman’s grandson. I decided to go and see him, hopefully impress him, and at least get him to introduce me to someone to get a story I’d just written published.
The question of clothes took some time. I went over and over my speech. I practised smiles and postures in the mirror and readied myself with a sample chapter typed out, spelling mistakes ‘n’ all, on a typewriter that clattered louder than a printing press and which also combined the indirect benefit of muscling those biceps and triceps such was the effort required to bash away on the keys.
When I saw him – magnificently dressed up in waistcoat, paisley cravat and maroon-coloured corduroys and with his white hair and beard flowing very literarily – I was scared. I hadn’t reckoned to come up against such a charismatic figure. Thirty long minutes of following him about the shop at a distance, pretending to peruse the books, posing foppishly by the poetry section, and fighting a terrible inner battle between “make a run for it” and “get in there and ask”, I finally approached him.
“Are you Walt Whitman’s grandson?” I asked.
“Yes. I am,” he replied in a baritone Yankee drawl that made my southern English accent sound like the bleat of a nervous lamb in comparison.
“I’d like to be published,” I continued, calling up my inner reserves. “Can you help me? Give me some tips? Perhaps,” I added, timidly, “someone’s name. Someone who can help?”
I’m not sure it was a trace of a smile that appeared on his lips. And if it was, it quickly disappeared to be replaced by a frown that in all appearances read, in giant letters in the air above his head, who the hell is this joker?
“Son,” he said, booming much too loudly across the whole store. “What the hell are you asking me all that for? Goddamit, all you have to do is get out there and write the damn thing!”
That was it. My fifteen seconds of mentoring from the grandson of a literary giant.
“Er – thanks,” I blurted, and headed straight for the exit door wondering whether it was time to plunge into the river Seine and end it all there and then.
“Y’welcome. Have a great day!” he called after me.
It took a few days to get over this truly humiliating experience. Two days of blaming the Yanks for speaking too loud, being too bolshie, reverting to the over-simplistic, being unfeeling and ungrateful. After all, we’d financed the colonies in the first place. And George Washington had been a captain in the British Army trouncing the Native Americans down south before everyone got upset about some spilt tea and decided to boot the British out (read the history books, by the way)!
But gradually, I came to realise he was right. Was there genius in such a short and sharp answer? And why indeed did I actually want to be published? Also, why had I decided to write and not become a City banker, government accountant, brain surgeon, star footballer or take up some other incredibly useful and simpler vocation? I realised. It was so stunningly simple, it was genius. Because in the end, it just boils down (tea again!) to one thing: just do it.
So…my parting words to you on this eve of Christmas and armed with the 9 steps are just that: DO IT!
|Still proudly (best)selling!|
A truly Happy Christmas to you all, regardless of skin, religion, capacity, language and nationality. Have fun, embrace your neighbour (literally, if you feel like it), and see you soon.
Tom Gamble xxx
PS: to finish off and coming soon: The 9 Steps in a nutshell and a real and practical example of using them. And remember - buy the books featured on this blog and find a purpose for you, me, and the charities the books support. How? Simple - click on the links! ;-)