When I was nine years old, my mom took me skiing a few times. I remember picking it up quickly and loving it. We didn't have the money to keep doing it, but I always wanted to go back. And in high school, when we were assigned to write down fifty life goals, I wrote that I wanted to ski black diamond.
A few years later during my senior year in college, I decided it was time to take some classes just for the heck of it. So in addition to fiction writing, I signed up for ski class. Ten lessons for $150 class fee was too good to pass up. After a visit to the local ski swap, I started my first day on an ancient pair of ten-dollar skis with rusty edges, five-dollar scuffed up boots, and a coat three sizes too big.
At the beginning of class, the instructors told the one hundred or so of us hanging around to get on the lift and ski to the bottom. They'd watch us to decide which class to place us in. I took one look at that hill, raised my hand, and said, "I'm in the class that can't ski that hill."
At the end of ten lessons, I knew one thing for sure, I would never be able to ski a black diamond.
I spent the next few years happily skiing the greens (beginner runs) and slowly working my way to the blues (intermediate runs). Each season I identified a few hills that looked far too scary to attempt and then eventually I attempted them.
This last year my brother, who up and decided to become a ski instructor, took me up a black diamond and into a foot of powder. I stared down that thing and I think I peed a little.
I was a quarter way down with my legs shaking under me, when my brother stopped to tell me I was skiing like a cat clinging to a leg. My fear kept me from letting go of the mountain; I kept leaning into it with my toes clenched into my boots. He told me to face forward and be aggressive, and I reminded myself that you ski a mountain one turn at a time.
I made it down that hill and I made it down a few other steep ones. And when I face something that scares me (like writing a book), I remind myself to let go of my fear, face forward, and take it one step at a time. And, whatever it is, go after it with aggression.