Today’s post is part of Indie Life, a blog hop hosted by the Indelibles. Click here to see a list of participating blogs.
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Once before, I compared the life of the writer to running the space program. Now I want to do it again.
A friend recently emailed me an article from the New Yorker about the team that designed NASA’s latest Mars rover. The rover, named Curiosity, was too big and heavy to survive the tried-and-true methods of landing on Mars. Instead, it used one of the strangest and most complicated landing systems in the history of space exploration: a sky crane that hovered over the surface of Mars and gently lowered the rover to the ground. One of the engineers who worked on this sky crane is quoted as saying, “It is the result of reasoned engineering thought […] But it still looks crazy.”
A lot of people criticized the sky crane. To the NASA outsider, it looked impractical and dangerous. Apparently the design team itself didn’t know if it would work. They couldn’t even test it. Since conditions here on Earth are so different than those on Mars, the results of any test here would be meaningless there. If the sky crane failed, politicians would no doubt call it a colossal waste of taxpayer money and slash NASA’s budget more than they already have.
But the sky crane worked. In August of 2012, Curiosity landed on Mars and began its search for Martian life. The article from the New Yorker went on to describe the unconventional thinking it took to make the sky crane a reality. I particularly latched onto the term “disciplined bravado.” The sky crane didn’t work because of the discipline of those NASA engineers with all their knowledge and experience designing spacecraft, nor did it work because of their bravado, their reckless courage to try a new thing. It only worked because they combined their discipline with their bravado.
This is a lesson for writers. We need a lot of discipline to get ourselves to write every day, to keep working on our stories even when writer’s block gets in the way. We also need the bravado to invent a new world and tell a story that’s never been told. In short, we need the same disciplined bravado it took to send Curiosity to Mars.
P.S.: Click here to read the article from the New Yorker, “The Martian Chroniclers: A New Era in Planetary Exploration” by Burkhard Bilger. It’s a fascinating story and an example of great writing.
P.P.S.: Click here to read my previous post on how being a writer is like running the space program.