When You Think You’ve Reached the Top. Look Up.

DSC01287s I write.  Not every day and not always well, but I write. And I’ve been writing for a long, long time. I have consistently followed the writer’s path to publication for the last seven years. In my thirties, I took classes and started novels. Further back in my preteen years I wrote ‘The Story’, a 300 page, hand written tome, that had characters very similar to Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.  Even longer ago, I scribed a retelling of the Eros and Psyche myth in play format for my fourth grade project. I even dabbled with short stories before I knew how to write in cursive.  So when I say I’ve been writing a long time, I’m not exaggerating.

The last few years have been very similar to climbing a steep mountain side.  First the foothills, constant improvement, learning more craft, finaling in contest, finding great writing friends and critique partners.  Then I hit some tall, daunting walls: harsh critiques, rejections, financial woes, family issues, indecision about self-publishing, loss of faith.  But for every rock slide or loss of hand hold, I took two steps forward. I could see the top and nothing was going to stop me. I put my head down and worked harder.

I recently received some positive feedback from one of my all-time-favorite mentors and I thought for sure the apex was in my reach.  An agent or editor would grab my book soon and it would be all downhill from this point on.  Finally, I would be a published author.  I would be living the life of my dreams.

But as I read over my latest manuscript, I glanced up to see the top maybe further than I expected.

A lot further.

Could this have been just self-defeating, lack of confidence?  Or could this feeling be a realistic worry.  I felt frozen.  Like a climber who has miscalculated the time it would take and is worried she didn’t bring enough food. My thoughts spiraled into a vortex:  Can I financially make it without additional income for another year or two…or five?  Have I blown out my arms?  Writer speak for: Do I have the knowledge and strength to keep writing and rewriting and pushing, year after year?   Do I have enough faith in myself and my ability?

I sat and read craft books and wallowed in my story, unable to even begin the process—yet again.

I never thought about quitting. When you are this far up the mountain, you have passed the point of no return, you are committed. It’s reach the top or die.

And I remembered that it’s not just the idea of reaching the top that pushes me on day after day. It’s the journey. It’s the writing. It’s the puzzling together of a story that not only delights me but may someday delight others.  It’s the learning and the growing and the process.

I decided to find the strength and fight.  Write a new story, or dig in and edit one of the pile I have finished, or do both. Because no matter how high this mountain goes, there will always be another peek, another goal that pushes me forward, another milestone to reach.  Even when I finally get published, I will look up and realize that there is yet another mountain to climb.

Because I am a writer and that’s what we do.

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