Thursday, March 27, 2008

Writing is Like Climbing Mt. Everest

kim smith 2008

Have you ever wondered about the experience of climbers who go on Mt. Everest hoping to summit the mighty peak? Have you ever associated the likeness of such a feat to writing? Only the very adventurous and quest-hungry person might see how the similarities are endless.

Climbers start out alone, flying to the beginning to meet with others who have a similar interest. Writers start out with a simple idea and often join up with others to see if there is a way to accomplish their newfound goal.

Peak-seekers try to stay focused. To do otherwise might well end the journey before it is begun. They buy the best equipment and train their bodies and minds. Writers set aside time to be in their writing world, and they get together utensils to work their craft. Many will take meditation instruction to get their mind-set to where it needs to be in order to write and others will seek out instructors to tell them the pitfalls and best methods.

The Everest climbers will start out slowly, getting themselves acclimated to the change in atmosphere and environment. They start to ascend with a mixture of hope and fear. Writers likewise test the waters by writing short pieces and poems and finding the failures sting, but successes, no matter how small, are juicy bites of the peaches in life. So they go on, attempting more with a larger work, a book, or novella.

Many climbers only make it to the first level rest area before saying okay this is far enough. They see the sunlight from high up and they know the darker rise before them may be more than they can do. Writers face their first hurdle when the book they decided to embark upon isn’t coming out quite right. They realize that the longer more difficult work still lies ahead and maybe this art form is not quite their cup of tea. Many will stop here at the point of having said, I have written.

Others, more adventuresome and daring, will find the path higher. They will experience a colder height, where there are fewer plants to see and more blue sky. The path rises getting steeper and steeper. Some writers will obtain this stage too. They will actually finish that book. Get to the end and say, yes I have done well. Yet both groups are given the chance to stop here. Not necessary to go further. They have proven that they can finish and they find people at this point who will give them plenty of accolades for such accomplishment.

But the others, the group of determined ones who climb to summit the top of Everest, or to obtain a publishing contract from a traditional publisher, will go on again. This group of climbers and writers is much, much smaller. They tread the more treacherous path. Here lie dangers, and the fear level rises as high as the next peak.

For the climber, now there are sheer rock faces, snows and avalanches. They are faced with isolation from even each other should something befall them. The writing group is similarly situated, for many of the group that they began with will have given up at this point. Now they are submitting to agents and editors, attempting the final goal of publication and experiencing rejections, and doubts that threatens to make them quit.

Here both groups discover inner struggles with themselves. They become the epitome of the good angel and bad angel over each shoulder. Learning to not listen to the voices either heralding their forward movement or cursing their failures becomes the most intense factor of the journey.

Then finally, the top is met. The climber is exhausted, dehydrated, and jubilant all at once. The writer is overjoyed and overwhelmed. With such success comes much responsibility. The climber has to take a while to recover from his exercise, give his body time to heal enough to go on. The writer has to learn to handle the new position they are now in and how to promote himself or herself in the book market.

Finally, after achieving the ultimate goal of summit or publication, the road becomes a different one. A downward turn for the climber because he still has to descend to where he began, and an onward trip for the writer who will continue to have peaks and valleys to uncover and master with second, third and consecutive books.

Whatever else may be said of the climber or the writer one thing is for certain, and that is, they will never be the same again. Now they will pay back the community whose support they sought out through the long trip. Giving back in knowledge and encouragement for the ones to come after is the best way to shed light on the path to the top of the mountain.


Marta Stephens said...

Kim, this is a great analogy! Never thought of it in these terms, but you've hit the nail on the head. Great job!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Wonderful piece, Kim! I loved the part about taking a bite of the juicy peach. Mmmm... and so appropriate! Thanks!