Proceeding without caution

It snowed today. It wasn’t the first snow of the year, but it came after a few weeks of snow-free roads. The snow started in the evening and was slowly blanketing the roads with a slightly slushy yet still maneuverable layer of mush. It was dark, and the snow came down quickly – nothing dangerous, just different.

Still, given the conditions, it seemed as though everyone had suddenly become too afraid to drive.

These are South Dakotans I’m talking about. Their license plates gave them away. These are people who are used to snow – used to maneuvering through slush much more dangerous than this, through ice and snow and whipping wind of a velocity that brings to mind the onslaught of a hurricane, crashing into the windshield and obliterating all available sight lines.

In other words, the snow – and the driving conditions that accompanied the snow – were familiar to nearly every driver on the road. Yet, everyone was driving as if they had never seen snow in their lives.

In other news, I sat down to write a radio script today. It might not seem related, but hear me out.

I stared at the piece of paper, struggled to come to terms with the job. I found myself easily distracted, forcing myself to turn away from the Internet, wondering how I could possibly make it through the project, utterly and completely unsure of my abilities to write what should be the simplest thing I had done that day.

I’ve always found radio scripts to be my Achilles heel. It’s not that they’re difficult. They can be really easy. It’s just that they are written in a style that my mind isn’t wired to understand. They’re more work for me than for other people.

Though I know how to do it – could write them in my sleep and, it seems, often do – I became shy. Unsure of myself. My confidence was shaken, and my words came out dripping with insecurity.

All of those people on the roads? Those South Dakotans who forgot how to drive?

They’re in the same boat.

When it comes to a new situation – even a new situation we’ve been through hundreds of times before – most of us shy away from the challenge. We know what we should do, but our mind looks for something easier – something less creative, slower, more cautious. In driving, this leads to slower traffic that is often more dangerous than it should be. In writing, this leads to an uninspired script.

It’s difficult to let go of.

But that’s the only solution. You act like nothing is wrong. You take the snow as it comes, being smart enough to realize when there is an actual danger and wily enough to steer your way around the frightened traffic.

And you stop staring at the paper. You act like nothing is wrong. You take the script as it comes, doing what you’ve done before, writing things that you think work together and finding the flaws. Getting started is the hardest part – just like driving in snow, once you’re used to the way your car moves you can proceed without the caution you’re so dearly clinging to.

Living with caution isn’t easy.

That’s the point.

This was lovingly handwritten on December 8th, 2008