Sometimes I do find myself questioning the wisdom of knowing too much. It all comes down to the old Terry Pratchett thing of million to one chances working out nine times out of ten. The odds in our game are fearsome. Doesn't stop some of us taking it on... and winning sometimes too. Last night our personal mad Lt Colonel (the neighbor) called us over to meet a rather special guest. A chap called Sibusiso Vilane, who was the first black South African to get to the top of Everest, and has since been to South Pole and also summited the highest peak on every continent. The curious thing about Sibusiso is not his color - after all why should that make any real difference - but the fact that he came from very humble origins and a culture of people who do not climb. Thanks to the generosity of some IIRC Canadian people he had some scooling - otherwise he would have been an illiterate goat-herd. As it was he was able to get a job as game ranger and was able to speak english quite fluently. One day he took a guest on a guided walk, and the guest wanted to get to the top of a waterfall - so they scrambled up the side together. The guest was much impressed by his agility (and no doubt his communication skills) and asked him if he'd ever thought of climbing Everest. Sibusiso knew Everest was a mountain, and wasn't in Africa, but that was it... But he said 'sure, but going overseas is expensive'. The guest - John Doble - did some calling around and got him sponsorship... It was tough, but he didn't know how to give up, and he never let fear or unfamiliarity stop him. And a man who had never seen snow ended up as a great mountaineer.
So how does this relate to writing? Well, if he'd known anything about climbing or Everest or just how hard it would be, he'd have been like the many hundred of young Zulu folk we tried to get to climb. If he'd accepted the limits set by his culture and origins he'd have still been a game ranger. And finally if he had not been a fluent english speaker who took the opportunity as it presented to him... and made the very best of it, he'd have never got the chance.
That all fits into the challenges of being a writer rather well
posted by Dave Freer