Guest Author - Glenda Schoonmaker
Maybe some writers stay up-beat, productive, and know exactly where they are going all the time, but that's not the norm. Most writers get writer's block, feel stuck, rejected, stressed, lonely, isolated, and frustrated at least some of the time, but hopefully not all the time. When the writing is going great, the journey makes the writer feel exuberant--like being on top of a mountain. The view is wide, clear, and the air is exhilarating. But being on top of a mountain means you have to come down sometime. One of the American generals, George Patton, once said, "Accept the challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory."
We used to backpack in the Colorado mountains in the very wooded areas with lots of underbrush. Going up the mountains wasn't the easiest thing in the world. We sometimes used small branches and limbs to hang onto for extra boosts to hoist our bodies with weighted packs up the steep climbs. Though we couldn't see the goal, we knew it was there. Vegetation was decreasing and our chests heaved from oxygen depletion with growing heights.
Henry Ford once said, "You can do anything with enthusiasm. . . . Enthusiasm is at the bottom of all progress. With it, there is accomplishment. Without it, there are only alibis." We knew we were aiming for a goal; we were heading somewhere we wanted to be--on top of that small mountain plateau.
Thankfully, I didn't climb alone because I'm intensely directionally challenged. My husband always took compass readings to know exactly where we needed to go whether going up or going down the mountain. He led the path, but we worked together to reach the mountain top. We joked (albeit possibly a disastrous joke) that if something happened to him, I would be on that mountain for the rest of my life because I have no sense of direction and wasn't the best in reading a compass. Yet, sometimes, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
It was tough going, but we finally made it to the top. For the first few moments we stood speechless as we looked around at other mountain peaks barely higher than where we stood. Chilled winds reddened our cheeks as we peered through the haze at the valleys and towns far below us. Only here can silence be heard. When you're sitting or camping on that mountain peak, you feel like maybe you'll just stay there forever, but you don't.
It takes less time coming down the mountain, but it's always a bit of a let down--not just because my rear was on the ground sliding more than walking or because my unconditioned knees were shaking from unbalance induced with heavy backpacks in descending.
When I think about those backpacking days, I hardly remember the intense struggle going up or the wobbliness coming down. But, I vividly still see those valleys and towns far below us, the clouds touching us, the wonderful chaffing on our cheeks, and the shared sounds of silence.
Writing has the same intensities of backpacking up and down mountains. To try to do it alone means much more work with no one to share the exhilaration and no one to lean on in the exhaustion. Writing is never an easy walk down an urbane path. Sometimes writers don't even know which road to take. Every writer needs a friend, spouse, critique group, on-line writing group, prayer partner, someone who will help be his or her writing compass on the road of ups and downs. That compass may change with the growth of a writer. Sometimes a writer has to trample the territory alone for awhile, but sooner or later every writer will find a that person who helps be a compass.
If you haven't found someone yet to be your support system or a shoulder to help pull the load, then try to focus at first on writing quotes to be your guide and compass. Post pertinent writing quotes and maybe pictures of mountains around your work area. Ponder these quotes. Know that people before you have been down the same difficult roads and up the same steep climbs. You don't have to be all alone on this mountain journey.