We all know that Icarus flew too high, too fast. The heat of the sun melted his wings and down he went — hurtling toward the earth. The lesson was simple: don’t dare enter the sphere of the gods if you are a mere mortal.
Yet don’t all Greek heroes chafe against the everyday and strive for the impossible? So why should Icarus fail where Perseus or Jason succeed? Some of it had to do with divine help. Perseus had some toys from his godly dad and Jason was favored by Hera.
One thing remains true for the heroes all over — either strive for the impossible or be forgotten.
So as an artist, we need to push ourselves toward the unattainable. For example, one of the magazines I strive to be published in is Analog. The mac daddy of science fiction and fantasy. Will I ever achieve it? Perhaps. But learning from Icarus, I need to know my limits and how far I can push myself.
But if you don’t aim high with your work, you’ll end up settling for the commonplace. One of the quotes I tell the students in my sixth-grade class involved just this sort of endeavour:
Champions keep going.
They strive for perfection, but will never achieve it.
People who set for themselves only simple challenges will celebrate and then stop. They have accomplished their goal and then rest on their laurels. Champions, however, keep pushing themselves toward perfection (a wholly unattainable goal)
So to quote the late, great Freddie Mercury:
We are the champions, my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting till the end
Never stop striving for what you believe is the best you can do. Then, aim even higher. If you’ve put in your time and worked your craft, you won’t tumble to the sea like Icarus. Instead, you might be surprised at how high you can soar.