Five Ways Writing is like Flying
Okay, I'm probably not the best person to write this blog since I haven't been doing much flying or writing from my Seattle crash pad. Ideally, I thought being on reserve meant when I wasn't getting paid to fly, I'd be getting paid to write. Instead, I'm hanging out with my nine new roommates and learning how to predict who will get called out next.
So though I'm not flying or writing much, I'm obsessing over both. Thus, I offer you five ways writing is like flying:
I didn't sign up for this. I specifically chose to work for my airline because in my interview I asked the recruiter how likely it would be that I'd be based in Boise, and he led me to believe it was super easy. Yet here I am in Seattle. Would I do it again if I had known how hard it would be to commute from home and miss my family, my friends, and my bathtub? Not likely. And I can say the same for my writing. My current publisher is the first one who rejected me fifteen years ago. I never imagined it would take me this long to get here.
It's not safe. One of my roommates worked the evacuation flights out of Afghanistan. They were shot at. They were flying blind because the air traffic control tower had been overtaken. Many of the people on the plane had never flown before, didn't speak English, and didn't know how to use a toilet. She was treated horribly as a woman and she was terrified of the passengers who were on the no-fly list that made it onto her flight due to not having time for security to screen them. Writers also put ourselves out there. We take risks. We make ourselves vulnerable. We can get attacked at any time by anyone--editors, reviewers, readers. I've seen very talented authors "canceled" because they dared to tell it like it is.
It's important. Contrary to popular belief, flight attendants do more than pour drinks. My training didn't even teach us how to pour drinks. We were taught self defense, first aid, and evacuation. We went through "Hell Week" where we watched videos of plane crashes. One trainee even passed out while watching a clip, and I've already had classmates landing in tornadoes and helping passengers going through cardiac arrest. This is why the FAA requires us to be on planes. Because your life is important. As for writing, just this month my mom looked up an author whose book influenced my parents' move to Oregon when I was thirteen. This changed my whole world. So I sent Dr. MaryAnn Diorio a letter, thanking her for the part she played in my life.
It's an adventure. At any moment, I can get a phone call that can send me anywhere in North America. I have to be ready to work various positions for multiple airlines. Even here in Seattle, it's a different culture of rain, music, and coffee. My heart grows because I've experienced more of this crazy, beautiful world to love. And though it's challenging, it also offers new depth for my writing. It prepares me for all the unexpected plot twists in storytelling.
It's worth it in the end. The airlines overhire because a lot of us won't make it. In thinking about the challenges, I decided I wouldn't quit because it's hard. I would only quit if the sacrifices are too great. When I left Boise last time, I told my husband I'm willing to give up the job if it's not the best thing for us. He called me that night after talking to a flight attendant who has been doing this for thirty years. She explained to him that everything is a test right now. They are weeding out those who aren't dedicated and disciplined. Once we gain some seniority, it will become the career of our dreams. My husband encouraged me: "You have what it takes. You can do this. I'm behind you 110%." He's the wind beneath my airplane wings. And sometimes I need his encouragement for writing too. Because nothing worth doing is easy. Even authors who seem like an overnight success have been working at it for years. But you won't get anywhere in life if you don't keep going.
Let's all keep going. Let's all choose our own adventure, touch lives, and risk being real. Life is never going to be what we sign up for, and we're all, in a sense, winging it.