I need to return to where I began to finish this book.
I was never trying to get anywhere. I was just going.
Then I tasted a small degree of success. I woke up one morning and I was like, “I make enough money to travel the world from writing. I did what I set out to do.”
Then something strange happened. I had a difficult time seeing what the next step was.
My obsessive passion dissipated as I began forcing it. I then found myself trying to do something rather than just doing it. While the final destination is ultimately the same, two are very different paths. I began trying to step forward, thinking about each muscle contraction, each extension of the joint, each placement of the foot, each chapter, each sentence, each word, rather than simply sitting back and taking the ride.
The only thing that I remember about writing my first book was sitting around McDonald’s eating egg mcmuffins, hanging out in cafes drinking coffee, and watching sports documentaries. There is not one point where I recollect putting words on the page. It was as if the book materialized by magic.
I never thought it would actually be published so I never sat around imagining my name on covers or big speaking engagements or going on TV and radio. There was nothing to lose, so I just had fun.
On the New Silk Road has been very different. I can remember writing each section, almost down to the very word. I can remember reorganizing the book a half dozen times. I remember trying to be a writer rather than just writing. I remember trying to write a good book.
This is probably the worst thing a writer can do.
I believe all writers feel this way after obtaining a level of what they feel is success. I remember having a beer with Paul French in London some years ago and listening to him express doubt about the book he was working on — “They would probably give me another shot.” It blew my mind that he would even have such a thought — he was Paul French, the modern literary elite, someone who I viewed as untouchable, the winner of King of the Mountain. How could he say something like that?
I think about that now and I’m like, man, that guy was following up an international best seller. I’m following up a book that merely reviewed alright whose argument stood.
Once you know that you can do something it oddly becomes more difficult to do again.
Truly successful people tend to shy away from from acknowledging their prowess. They credit others. They diminish the importance of their work. This may come off as modesty, but I believe it is more self-preservation.
Success is stifling.
I need to go back to the bottom.
And stay there.
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