Cliff Jumping

by JT Ellison

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failures, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
— Teddy Roosevelt

This is one of the best quotes of all time. Roosevelt had it right on the money. You must take chances in order to succeed in life. You must give in to your impulses every once in a while, trust your gut, know your own soul. You need to ignore the fact that the drop off the cliff is mighty, and jump anyway.

I had the opportunity to discuss my views on cliff jumping with three people recently. One is my husband, who jumped off a very, very high cliff indeed to start his own consulting firm at the first of the year. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud as I was when he told me he’d made the decision. It’s a risk, certainly. But there is no reward in this life without risk.

Second is an author who is a bit of a cliff jumper herself, albeit one who likes to have knowledge of how far the fall might be. And the third is a friend who needed to be shoved, kicking and screaming, right on off the edge. Between the three of them, I engaged in several days worth of fascinating discussions about how fear can inhibit your growth, as a writer, as a person, as a lover and friend. It affirmed what I’ve always believed – Fear is the most dangerous part of life.

Allow me one of my earnest moments. I’ve never let fear get in my way. I would so much rather fail, to put it all out there and fall flat on my face, than never try at all. Better to have loved and lost, right? That’s my personal credo.

Because, you see, I am a cliff jumper. And I want everyone to jump right along with me.

My darling husband reminds me, at times, that not everyone wants to be a cliff jumper. He says, “Honey, some of us like to walk to the edge, look over and ascertain how far the drop is.”

Where’s the fun in that?

I hold to the belief that if you look at how far you might fall, you’ll back away from that edge and never jump.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not flighty about all this, rushing about succumbing to frivolous impulses. I’m just willing to take chances to further my career, my life and my soul. I never want to look back and say, man, I wish I’d done that. I want to do it. I want to run screaming along the beach and dive off mountains. I want to shoot for the brass ring with my career, and pray that somewhere along the way, the ring turns golden. I want to put my heart on the line, to give myself wholly and completely to my loved ones, even knowing that there’s a chance my precious heart will get trampled.

I want a lot of things, and they aren’t the kind of items you can buy in the store.

Nike has the slogan that you’ve heard all of us here at Murderati talk about. “Just Do It” embodies the life of a professional writer. “Ass in Chair,” “Just Do It,” “Work the Purple…” You’ve heard those phrases here. And I subscribe to all of them. We’ve gotten into this racket for a reason – we love to tell stories. We love to have that psychic interaction with a stranger, to affect their being through our words. We love to share our world with our fellow writers, with the readers and booksellers we meet on tour, with the editorial and agent teams we interact with at our houses. This business is one of communication, and if you’re not willing to lay it on the line, you’re going to have a hard time.

I believe in honesty, in open lines of communication, in taking chances. I believe fear will cripple your psyche. I believe that if you want to be a writer, you need to polish and submit, and that there are no excuses for not. I believe that if you’re an established writer, you have a contract with everyone involved in your career to meet your deadlines and put your writing first. I believe that if you love someone, you tell them. It’s as simple as that.

There is another quote that I believe in wholeheartedly. I’ve shared it here before, but this is so apropos to this particular post that I wanted to share it again.

When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.
— Lao Tzu

So what about you? Have you jumped off any cliffs lately???


JT & Laura Crime Scene Nashville

I need to say thank you to a few folks this week for the feeding, watering and general care taken of Laura Benedict and me on our “Blonde and Blonder Tour”: the incredible staff at Sherlock’s Books in Lebanon: Patty, Judy, Lise, Jill, Steve, and frequent chatter Cathy; the wonderful folks at Davis Kidd in Nashville, especially Tim, who rocked our signing and shared some great news that made me cry (#3, Baby!); our friends McKenna, David and Ann at Murder by the Book, Houston, and Ashley and Jaime Lavish, who drove all the way to Houston to see us; and Jacob at the Barnes & Noble in Preston Royal, Dallas, who helped me welcome a few familiar faces – thanks to Dan, Christine, Suzanne and Sara for making me feel at home, and the Bookies, a Dallas based book club, who had a party for me and shared in all the good things. It was a wonderful trip, to be sure, and the pictures can be seen here. Signed copies are available at all of the stores listed.

Wine of the Week: Mark West Pinot Noir, a gift from a dear friend. Yum!



28 thoughts on “Cliff Jumping

  1. J.D. Rhoades

    A good friend has a saying (I think it’s posted above her desk): “jump and the net will appear.”

    I will observe that that jump gets a little more problematic when you’re the family’s sole breadwinner.

  2. Jake Nantz

    Congrats Ms. Ure, that’s fabulous news!

    JT,I’m not the family’s sole breadwinner, like the two above, but we need both salaries to cover bills and mortgage. So yeah, I take a look at the edge, but I don’t dive unless I know the water is deep and there’s a lifeguard on duty. I used to, and it made for some great stories (shitty things, but great stories now that they’re over). Problem is, somewhere along the way I grew up, and I don’t even like grownups. So now I have to be more careful where I jump, and I don’t do it as often.

  3. Terry Odell

    Not huge cliffs, thank goodness, but I took a couple of writing plunges and got back the rights to one of my novels, which I shall revamp and hope my agent will sell. And a short story, although I haven’t thought about where else to place it, but it’s lived out its life where it was.

    I quit my day job (right before the economy plummeted) figuring I had enough stashed to work for another 2-3 years at building a stronger writing career.

    Then things are looking like hubby’s job might go away — we’re looking at retirement, but would rather do it on our terms, not at the whim of his employer.

  4. Stephen D. Rogers

    I’m always quick to say “Yes!” whenever a writing opportunity presents itself. So much so that I’ve had to learn to decline in order to focus on priorities.

    It can be a fine balancing act. Jumping off every cliff can lead to awkward moments if you’re the one who’s supposed to drive the car down to pick everybody up.

  5. JT Ellison

    Congratulations, Louise!!!!!!!!!!!!! So well deserved!

    Dusty, Randy just read your comment over my shoulder and agreed with you. And I agree with you too. But this is more than just about writing. It’s about wanting to go to Europe but being afraid to fly. It’s about living in one place your whole life. It’s being afraid to try new things, to commit, to love fully. It’s about finding your bliss, the thing that you want most and shooting for it. For me, that’s writing, but it can be about anything. (Wow, I AM earnest this morning…)

    Alex – Toni wrote a great post a while back – here’s the link. This is where we got Work the Purple – it was a shoe metaphor:

    Jake, I was more mature when I was 15 than I am now… at least I thought I was mature. I had BIG PLANS, was going to do BIG THINGS. I’ve come to realize that I took myself WAAAAAY too seriously…

    Terry, I know what you mean about wanting things on your own terms. Funny how life refuses to agree, isn’t it? And congrats on getting your work out there!

    Stephen, that’s wonderful that you get to pick and choose now. That’s what we’re all shooting for, right? And I love the car analogy. So true.

  6. pari

    Hooray for Louise! What wonderful news!

    As to cliff-jumping — I did more when I was alone. I don’t think any cliff was too high then and, boy, did I jump!!!

    Now it’s different. With a hubby and kids who really depend on me, I’m not as apt to leap. But the commitment, the full-body dive I’m taking with my writing, the mere act of starting a new series, of pulling stories out of my heart and committing them to paper– that feels pretty damn big to me.

  7. Zoë Sharp

    I took some big leaps when I was younger. Taking the leap into deciding to try and earn a living from words, on the strength of one accepted magazine article, was a fair size jump.

    But what stops me jumping off cliffs these days is because I’m more afraid of landing on someone than I am of hurting myself.

    I seem to be quite good at that …

  8. Jeff Abbott

    Mark West is my favorite sub-12 bucks Pinot Noir.

    Randy probably knows a recession is one of the best times to start a business.

    Like you, I have always been a leap taker. I have been lucky to be encouraged by other leap takers. I moved to writing full time five years ago and with a stay-at-home wife and two small kids and it was a scary leap. My wife summed it up: I want our sons to know it’s possible to follow your dreams. Even if you fail, you will have tried.

    That’s a critical lesson for kids.

  9. Gayle

    Not a cliff jumper at all. I’m not ashamed to admit that I like being in a rut. I am the only breadwinner, so I can’t afford any jumps. Most of the time, I truly enjoy my job, plus I’m good at it so that could be why the cliff doesn’t appeal to me. I have friends who have taken risks and they have not worked out. Perhaps that’s why the cliff doesn’t appeal to me either. Im the end all that really matters is are you happy with yourself and your life. We day to day plodders are what keeps things going after all.


  10. Tom

    LU, congratulations, and the nomination is well-deserved. In fact, they should have given you a pair of the damn things.

    So, JT and Dusty; you defined the two poles of the adult life. To be pulled between the two leaves one with no peace.

    The only solution I’ve yet found is that I must allow myself some of the freedom I work to preserve for my dependents.

    Haven’t got it going, yet. I’ll let you know if it works out.

  11. J.T. Ellison

    Jeff, Randy blogged about just that- do like the Mark West, and I’m not a huge Pinot fan.

    And can I just have a huge Amen, Brother! I agree, I want our kids to see that we weren’t afraid to try.

    Gayle, I definitely don’t see folks who don’t go flying off the edge as in a rut. I see them as sensible. I’m not sensible. I’ve got common sense, but I just hate the constraints that being sensible puts on me. I would definitely have been Marianne – and I thank God everyday that my Mr. Willoughby is also my Colonel Brandon.

    And I bet you take many more risks that you think…

    Tom, it’s been such a joy to see my husband take this leap. We’ve been married a long time and since I’m the cliff jumper, he’s been forced to the other side. Having him leaping alongside me is breathtaking.

    I wish you all the best in your endeavors!

  12. Louise Ure

    Sorry I’m late to the party. There were a raft of congratulatory emails in my inbox this morning and I had no idea why! Thank you guys, all of you, for such good wishes.

    I’m a more sedate cliff diver than JT. In my case it’s more like: “Might as well as well as not.” And off I go.

  13. Cheryl Kaye Tardif

    I’ve jumped off a few cliffs lately, and it’s been exhilirating! One cliff was a monster–one I was dreading. But I knew I had to do it. I had to jump. So I did.

    In the freefall aftermath, I landed on my feet and in a far better position than before. I could see my goals clearly. The cliff had gotten in the way before.

    I have a saying:”Fear is contagious. So is courage. Courage can’t help you unless you let it.”


  14. toni mcgee causey

    Yeah, cliff jumper here. I want to try for the highest bar there is, leap for the dreams. We’ve always owned our own business, and that is a daily cliff jumping reality, so maybe I’m immune to the fear, now. [Oh, it’s there. I just ignore it.]

    With families, we have responsibilities and we need to eat, put a roof over our heads, so there are certain limitations as to how many cliffs we can jump, but we can still embrace change, try new things, reach harder, love deeper. I don’t want to look back in life and wish I’d been brave enough to try something. I don’t want to spend my time saying, “if only.”

    Work the purple. heh. JT, I had forgotten all about that one. Thanks for reminding me.

  15. L.J. Sellers

    I’ve jumped off several cliffs in the last few years. Exhilarating! I’m so much happier now. And much less fearful about letting go of the sure/comfortable thing. I’ve been known to jump out of airplanes too, but cliff diving requires more courage, as it usually has no real backup. So best wishes to you and your husband. And thanks for a great post.

  16. Dena

    Cliff-jumping is my life – I’m a transpacific sailor who sold her boat in order to focus on writing for a year. My husband and I both worked hard to save money and we came here to India, where the cost of living is low and the stimulation level is high. I finished polishing my first MS and wrote 76K words for NaNoWriMo on a second. I’m editing that MS now and though the NaNoWriMo style means I have some really bad writing, I also have some really good stuff too! We’ll be coming back to the US next month and that’s another cliff jumped – we’re going to arrive in NYC homeless, jobless, and with only three changes of clothing. Right now, we’re planning on taking a train to Baltimore and trying to get jobs and a home around there. We want to get back on a boat, so the Chesapeake Bay seems like the right place for us. But neither of us has ever lived there before!

  17. Jeff Abbott

    Louise, congratulations!

    One thing about being a cliff jumper: you can consider yourself braver than the overpaid CEOs of the world, who can drive a company into the ground and still be massively compensated. Those captains of industry are too afraid to take a job without a golden parachute of benefits and guaranteed pay. You, as a cliff-jumping writer, are not. We take responsibility for our own work–we make our own parachutes.

  18. Cara

    Congratulations, Louise!!

    JT re: cliff jumping. A friend once said ‘you know, you can’t hit a home run if you don’t step up to the plate’

  19. Laura Benedict

    How much do I love that picture!? You have completely spoiled me for doing events all by my lonesome–our travels were definitely the best part of this tour!

    Here’s to cliff-jumping, honey, whatever the style! xo

    (And hooray for Louise! Congratulations!)

  20. Chris Hamilton

    I recently read a story about a military leader of old who, when his troops landed on a new land, burnt the boats. No turning back. I want to cliff jump, really, I do. It looks exciting, but I have a million reasons not to (mortgage, wife, kids, etc.). But later this summer, my employer is going to let people go. Part of me prays to be part of the ones let go. I know I can fly, but I really need to be pushed.


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