“Just write the damn thing!”
Let’s get back to our “fighter pilot wisdom” series.
Flashing back to our friend, Israel Air Force ace (for shooting down five enemy planes) Giora Romm, let me paraphrase something he told me about fighter pilots in general.
There are some pilots in any squadron who are excellent fliers, undoubtedly brave in many air-to-air contexts, yet who in action will often loiter around the margins of an engagement rather than plunging aggressively into the fray. I witnessed this a number of times in confrontations with the enemy along the border. This is in wartime, remember. Certain pilots would stay on our side of the line and not cross over.
Wow. I had never thought of that. But hearing Giora tell it, I could believe that was a common phenomenon.
It got me asking myself what the equivalent was in the writer’s world. I realized I had an answer, at least for me, immediately to hand—and on the very book I was interviewing Giora for.
When I got back from Israel after conducting interviews for The Lion’s Gate, I had almost five hundred hours of tape from about eighty interviewees—soldiers, tankers, and airmen who had fought in the Six Day War of 1967.
I took this responsibility very seriously. This was not fiction, where I could make stuff up or change the story to suit my own aims. This was real. I had to be absolutely true to what had factually happened.
I began transcribing the interviews. Each one took about a week. I was scrupulous. I was religious. I was painstaking.
I was loitering.
The realization hit me one day. There’s the enemy. There’s the engagement. And here I am, hanging back, flying in circles on the wrong side of the border.
I said to myself, “Just write the damn thing!”
Immediately all problems cleared up.
Resistance takes many forms, and one of them is the temptation to loiter around the margins of our book, our movie, our startup.
Giora, in our interview, went on to make a further point.
I don’t believe these pilots’ problem was lack of courage. The issue was that they were unsure of the contours of the problem. Planes were zooming this way and that. Who’s who? What’s going on? The pilots were hanging back, as if they were waiting for a photo to develop. Whereas other pilots (like me) were comfortable jumping in, even when we weren’t sure exactly what was going on. That’s airmanship—the ability to make a judgment based on minimal cues, sometimes even totally insufficient ones.
I was like those hanging-back pilots at that point in writing The Lion’s Gate. I peered at the work before me, and all I saw was confusion. I kept waiting for the picture to come into focus. But it never did. I could’ve spent a year transcribing interviews and been just as uncertain as I was at the start.
Sometimes you have to fly straight into the chaos.
Sometimes you have to tell yourself, “Just write the damn thing!”