It’s been a weird couple of days. I’ve found myself motivated and inspired by two of the most unlikely sources.
First to kick me up the arse was an episode of the American TV show, Hoarders. Now Hoarders is one that I like to watch when I’m putting off doing the laundry – it makes me feel better about the mess. However, this week’s episode spun me into a small existential crisis. The protagonist was James, an elderly man living in a house with a yard full of clutter: pots and pans, rusty bicycles, kitchen sinks etc. He told the show psychologist that he had dreamed of opening a shop, refurbing bits of kit that he found and reselling them to make money for his family. This dream never came true. When the psychologist suggested he throw away an old punch bag, ruined by weather and time, old James burst into tears and confessed he couldn’t give the clutter up because to do so would be an admission that he was now too old to see his dream become a reality.
I must admit, it frightened me. With birthday number 30 looming in a few months time I’m starting to think that I need to get more focus and drive. I don’t want to be an old man sitting on an electric scooter in a house full of half-edited manuscripts that I never really finished. It’s surely worse to regret not doing it than to have given it a good old try. Anyway, so this was the first of my inspirations this week – fear of being a hoarder with an unfulfilled lifetime dream.
My second inspiration was even stranger! My novel is set in Paris (I lived, studied and worked there for six years and obsess over going back) so for both my own personal interest and my writing, I’m constantly reading about Parisian history and its many colourful characters. Yesterday I came across this fellow, Franz Reichelt, an Austrian inventor who claimed to have designed a wearable parachute for pilots in case of emergencies. Weighing less than 9 kilos, the wearable parachute had a canopy-height of five metres and a surface area of 30 square metres. Unfortunately for Reichelt, the parachute’s first outing in 1912 was to be its last. Demonstrating it himself, the determined inventor threw himself off the first floor of the Eiffel Tower and left a small crater in the ground below when the parachute failed to open.
It was not Reichelt’s foolishness that inspired me – but his self-belief. There is a Pathé video below of his attempt that is both creepy and compelling. As the man in the silken suit teeters on the edge of the tower railing he spends about 30 seconds looking at the drop he’s about to take and I found myself talking to my screen, willing him not to do it (even though he already did it over a century ago). During those 30 seconds I wondered what he was thinking. Was he so confident in his own creation that he believed it would change his life? Could it change the world? When he landed on his feet at the bottom of the Tower, would he walk away a millionaire with countless orders for wearable parachutes?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not planning anything as crazy as a solo dive off the Eiffel Tower but it made me think that I should stop doubting myself. If this man can have the confidence in himself and his own ideas to jump from such a height, regardless of the outcome, surely I can bite the bullet and finally start to make the changes I need to get my writing done. The worst that can lie ahead is a lot of rejection – not a mouthful of grass.
So James and Franz have both moved me in different ways this week. James has inspired me to act now and follow my dreams before they become sad regrets. Franz has inspired me to have confidence in myself and to see my projects through.
Is it odd that I’ve been motivated by these two men? Possibly. Probably. But odd or not, their stories have driven me forward with renewed enthusiasm for my writing.