Staying Alive

It’s no secret how earlier this year my editor and mentor, David Farland, died in a terrible accident.

Though he was in his sixties, he was healthy, and could have easily lived for several more decades had fate been kinder to him.

And while he had authored dozens of books, he was poised to write a great many more. He talked occasionally about expanding some of his established series. And, as an idea man, he constantly had pitches and outlines for entirely new stories—ones that might have even outshined the works of his many students.

Speaking of which, I cannot help but consider how many additional students he might have taken on, had he finished out his natural course on this Earth. The man was like a magnet for great writers (or, conversely, he was like a magic talisman that turned ordinary people into great writers). You’ve heard many of their names: Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, Stephenie Meyer, James Dashner, Dan Wells, and others.

I was among the last to receive personal guidance from him. And it’s sobering to think of how many hundreds of other greats might have been cultivated by him had they simply been given the chance.

It’s particularly troubling to me, since I put off hiring him as my editor for two years (I was so afraid he wouldn’t accept, or that I would embarrass myself; it took a long time to work up the nerve).

And it just goes to show that no matter how beneficial a person is to you or the things you care about, they can be taken from you. It’s maddening. And saddening.

A Close Call

Two weeks ago, my father got in a skiing accident.

He’s 81 years old, and he’s been skiing his whole life. Lately, he’s gotten into an accident almost every year. He’s broken and arm and a leg and gotten a number of bruises. Every time, he shrugs it off. Even when his injuries prematurely end his ski season, he’s always back the next year.

This time was different.

Two broken shoulders. Seven broken ribs. A severely damaged vertebra. Three surgeries. It was the kind of accident that can change the course of a man’s life.

He’s lucky to still be walking. Apparently, he might have his Apple Watch to thank for that. He has no memory of the incident and was out like a light. But apparently his watch detected that he had been in a collision and had called 911. Other skiiers may have seen him, too. In any case, the ski patrol found him and loaded him onto an ambulance.

If he hadn’t been wearing a helmet, he might not have survived.

In the time since, my entire family—along with a host of nurses and hospital staff—have been caring for him. He’ll be able to return to his normal routine after maybe six months.

Still, I have a hard time feeling at ease.

You Have to Be Extra Careful

My father may not be as young or as famous as David Farland, but he still has a lot to give to this world. And not all accidents are preventable. I don’t know the details of the incident that killed my editor, but from what I can piece together, he simply fell down a flight of stairs. Neither of these men asked for the misfortunes that befell them.

But I’ve had my fill of surprises this decade. I don’t want to be faced with any more gut punches.

And neither do the people who depend on you. Each person reading this has something to give to the world—something that may take many, many years of your personal labor before it comes to fruition. What will become of that project if something suddenly happens to you? If you are taken out of the picture, even temporarily, it can upset the lives of dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people

Now is not the time to take unnecessary risks. Your life is not only your own. It belongs to everyone who will be left without a support should you disappear, and to all the people who will have to support you if you get injured.

As winter sets in, we are going to see this story repeated over and over again, to various degrees. Don’t let yourself become one of those statistics. We all just survived a pandemic, for crap’s sake!

Think of your kids, your friends, your students before you find yourself in a dangerous situation. Take precautions. Drive responsibly. Look both ways. Keep yourself safe.

We’ve all had enough bad news to last a lifetime.

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