Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Challenge of the Writing Journey

“I've learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.”

If everything in our writing happened seamlessly, without struggle or challenges, we'd all be excruciatingly bored. And our writing would be as dull as the safety scissors in kindergarten class. We fantasize about the quiet room to focus on our plots, the pages filled with words ready for the world without as much as a missing comma, the publisher eagerly awaiting your novel with open arms...but if that was a constant reality, what would we be striving for?
Each writing project reflects a writer's "because it's there" opportunity. The mountain climber scales a mountain with sheer skill and determination and arrives at the peak, heart pounding with the sense of accomplishment. If the same climber would have just taken the train to the top, he would feel a sense of loss. Yes, either way he gets to experience the beauty of the vistas, to breathe in the crisp, clean air. But he hasn't embraced the journey. He didn't get the chance to learn anything about himself. How would he have dealt with the sudden downpour that morning? What would he have done if wild animals found and ate most of his food? He'd never know. The "climber" wouldn't have an adventure to share with friends, he could only point out the spot on a map.

Making Time to Travel to your Destination

  • Sure, you can move forward in your writing with a few minutes here, a few minutes there. But there will come a time for the hard climbing. Use that time to string together all of those short jaunts into something that really covers some writing ground.

Preparing to Climb that Mountain

  • You'll make it much farther if you don't show up at the base empty handed. Have your tools at the ready: your comfy chair, your best pen, your style guide. Don't ignore your support systems. You may need a boost up at some point. Keep your writer's group or online community standing by for any emergencies.

Losing Sight of the Trail

  • Your typing fingers are tap-tap-tapping down the path, the light of the screen guiding your way. Suddenly, your words seem random and out of place. This certainly can't be the right way to go! Maybe your story has ventured out in wild territory, without permission from you. Or you took a turn in the trail that seemed great at the time, but it ended up leading you to the edge of a cliff. This wasn't the cliff-hanger you were looking for.
  • How you deal with this is the essence your writing adventure. Do you panic and just leave your mountain, your campfire smoldering? If so, how sure are you that your work will be in any condition to accept you when you come back? It may be fine, but are you willing to take that risk? Instead, decide if it's time to create a new path, or turn back and find the missing trail. Whatever you do, don't panic. Take a look at your surroundings, use your skills, and write your way into the next path. You may find you enjoy the new-found path more than you expected.

Falling Down

  • Know ahead of time that this is a challenge you won't come out of unscathed. Does a rejection feel like a skinned knee-- or a broken arm, cracked skull, AND a million little paper-cuts? Build up your safety gear. A tough skin will help you to see the rejection for what it is-- an expected slip in an area so full of obstacles.

Being pulled away from the Mountain

  • The helicopter lands. You are needed somewhere else. They have tracked you down. Even if you live and work at the mountain, other things in life need your attention. Sometimes you've hidden yourself away enough to where they can't penetrate your writing life, but more often you find that your writing will suffer if you don't take care of those other things.
  • Most of us think we would be perfectly happy if we had unlimited time to write. But if you take a step back and look at your writing adventure objectively, you'll understand how important it is to get off of the mountain sometimes.
    • You need to support yourself. If your writing isn't income producing (yet), you likely have a job to go to. Allow yourself the luxury of a paycheck; your writing will feel less desperate and hurried.
    • You need to maintain your relationships. There's time to be the writer, alone. Don't fall into the trap of the lonely writer.
    • You need material! You can't experience all life has to offer from your desk chair. Your non-writing jobs, your relationships, the weather... all these are things that must be observed "out there" before you venture back into solitude. When you return, you'll have more to reflections ready to be shaped onto the page.
How are you under pressure? How did you deal when you've lost sight of the trail? Pack your bags, and enjoy the climb!


  1. Tina, this is one of your very best posts yet. It's thought provoking and enlightening. You are an excellent motivator and communicator. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks, Paula. It's Mutual Motivation-- listening to your work Inspires me as well! Appreciate the comment:)


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