A guy who came to Fight Club for the first time, his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks, he was carved out of wood.
That’s a line from Fight Club, which, since I saw it early in college, has sat comfortably in my top five all-time favorite films. I love it mostly because I’m a man and RAH RAGE VIOLENCE BLOOD FARGO THE SYSTEM. Well, not really. There is that, but mostly I love it because it’s about a guy in a rut who pulls himself out of a rut in catastrophic fashion. No half-measures; the characters in this film go all-out for the things they want, and for the things they don’t even know they want.
The narrator and Tyler Durden get into a fight in Fight Club, not because they hate each other or because they disagree, but because they’ve never done it. Then other people join up and start fighting for the same reason, and soon Fight Club has evolved into Project Mayhem, with multiple chapters around the country and designs against the very pillars of society. These guys (well, spoiler alert, this guy) starts a thing for the hell of it, and like the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill, it gains a momentum of its own. Then it all goes sideways, of course. Great movie.
But the quote above, in particular, sticks out to me, because it’s at the core of the movie, but like all good movies and all good quotes, it’s really about life. Getting in a fight, handling one’s self mano-a-mano against another human, is the sort of thing that most people probably think they could do reasonably well at. I know I’m guilty of thinking I could handle myself if it came to it, not that I ever expect it to ever come to it (insert obligatory I’m a writer not a fighter cliche here!). But a fight has the immediate power to rectify your worldview by dint of the other guy’s boot crashing into the side of your skull. Training aside, athleticism aside, general awareness and savvy aside, there’s no substitute for stepping into the arena and facing the blows. However prepared you might be, however capable and willing, you can’t know how it’ll go until you actually get in the ring. The only thing that really teaches you is the trial.
Which is, I think, why there are so many would-be novelists out there, and why gym memberships spike in January but the gyms themselves empty out before February dawns. It’s why instead of trying the thing that intrigues and frightens us, we head for the couch and the reruns of Law and Order. It’s why instead of getting up with the early alarm and braving the cold to work out, we retreat to the warm, fluffy confines of our beds. The couch and the bed are easy on our cookie dough asses. It’s easy to sit back and talk about how we could do the thing if we decided we wanted it. Just not today.
But that’s why I do get up and run before the sun, when it’s freezing outside and I’d rather be asleep. It’s why I park myself in front of the blank screen every day and pour the words forth, even when it feels like it doesn’t mean anything. Because my ass feels a little too much like cookie dough, and I’d rather be carved outta wood.
Of course, to get carved, you have to take the leap. You have to hold your breath and plunge into the icy water. Take off your shoes and walk across the coals. Jump out of the airplane.
And yeah, sure. You’ll get knocked on your ass. Maybe more often than not.
But if you can master the fear and get used to giving yourself the lumps, day in and day out? And then stepping up to the bar and asking for just one more? Maybe you’ll actually stand up to the task when the real world comes calling.
Or, you know. You could just sit back and cookie-dough-ify yourself.
This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.