Saturday, July 24, 2010

Everything I Know I Learned from Amelia Earhart

This week (July 24) we celebrate the 113th anniversary of the birth of Amelia Earhart.

Above my writing desk is a black and white poster, a print of a photo taken of Amelia's famous Lockheed Electra as it soared over the Golden Gate Bridge westward toward the Pacific Ocean on March 17, 1937. It was the dawn of the first day of her round-the-world flight, and the morning sunlight is just illuminating the leading edges of her wings. "Amelia Earhart in Flight," the caption reads. Beauty, solitude, and confidence--they're all there in that one image.

But I know a secret. The expedition that began on that March morning was Amelia's first round-the-world attempt, and not the one that ended in mystery and headlines. The journey ended only three days later, in Hawaii, when she damaged the Electra on a bad takeoff. Being Amelia, she refused to give up. The repairs took nearly three months and by that time world weather had changed. So when she began her expedition a second time, on June 1, 1937, she was forced to head in the other direction. She took off from Miami and headed east out over the Atlantic. You know the rest of that story.

False starts aren't uncommon in writing, as in flying. I've got a whole drawer of rejections and half finished pieces that just aren't good enough, dammit, to attest to that. But when I encounter a roadblock, I just look up at Amelia's gleaming Electra. And I head in a new direction and try again.

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