From the desk of Will Kitson: The choking issue

WILL KITSON is Managing Editor of Seymour Magazine.

Will holds a Masters in English Literature from King’s College London, prior to which he earned a BA in Creative Writing (with Honours) from the University of Greenwich.  Previous to his post at Seymour Magazine, Will has worked as a Reviewer, Copy Editor and Editorial Assistant/Arts Administrator at A Younger TheatreBlake Friedmann Literary Agency and Brand Literary Magazine, respectively.



‘The true opponent, the enfolding boundary, is the player himself. Always and only the self out there, on court, to be met, fought, brought to the table to hammer out terms. The competing boy on the net’s other side: he is not the foe; he is more the partner in the dance. He is the … excuse or occasion for meeting the self.’ – David Foster Wallace

I recently heard an interview with a retired sportsman reflecting upon his distinguished career with a distinct air of melancholy; when asked ‘which lasts longer: the enjoyment of winning or the frustration of losing?’ he immediately responded: ‘The enjoyment was very brief I’m afraid, too brief … because before you know it you’re playing another game and the fear creeps back in.’

Perhaps it’s rather deflating to start my New Year’s editorial note with such a despondent episode; however, at a time when many people are setting themselves new challenges and resolutions, it seems a pertinent moment to consider the relationship between fear and our goals.

I’ve noticed in myself and others a definite inability to enjoy success for prolonged periods of time. Feelings of pride and accomplishment are often quickly displaced by those of uncertainty, anxiety, and a desire to do better the next time.

Such is often the characteristic of the focused and the determined. It is an insatiable hunger that can only be satisfied briefly before demanding new and more cumbersome nourishment. It is a phenomenon that has been noted and documented by many, aptly named ‘the little fucker,’ ‘the chattering head,’ ‘the cackling voices,’ ‘the choking issue;’ it is something that lies deep within us all; it knows every one of our fears and doubts, every one of the chinks in our armour. And it knows exactly how to exploit them.

Of course, for some ‘the little fucker’ is seen as a necessary evil, a natural force which stimulates our deep instinctive competitiveness. Competing with ‘ourselves’ drives us forward, pushes us to improve and transcend. However, this demon is also undoubtedly a dangerous competitor. It has the power to ruin ideas, projects, and whole careers. It’s also incredibly adroit at sucking out much warranted pride and joy from our hard-fought accomplishments.

It seems – as is often the case – that a wisdomed approach of balance should be taken, one that can only be tailored through growth and personal experience; cultivating an ability to recognise fear as a natural presence when being brave and navigating through unknown territories; imbibing every lesson so that the next time we face the little fucker we’re better equipped than ever; as David Foster Wallace so eloquently put it: ‘To accept that the Game is about managed fear.’

I wish you success with your endeavours in 2015; I encourage you to take the time to savour the joy of your accomplishments, alter your relationship with fear, and relish the challenges when they come.  And finally, allow yourself a moment to pause and reflect not only with each failure, but with each triumph.

Published: January 8th, 2015

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