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Monday, May 14, 2012

Writing and Mountain Climbing

While I was hiking yesterday, trying to put two 14 mile days back to back with lots of  vertical, I had time to think. That's actually how my writing career began--with lots of trail time. In any event, I discovered a whole lot of similarities between outdoor pursuits and writing.

I know, on the surface, they don't look anything alike. But they both require a great deal of perseverance and a strong belief in yourself and your abilities. It's also helpful if you can stay in the moment. It's counterproductive to look up at a distant summit early in the morning (once you can actually see it, since most serious climbs begin in the pre-dawn hours) and decide it's too far. My mantra has always been to ask myself if I can take another step. If I can, the trip's a go.

The analogy to writing is it's also counterproductive to look at a short story that's been rejected a couple of times, decide it's hopeless and trash it. Out of all the short stories I've had accepted, only one or two went to the very first publisher I submitted to. I've learned to look at my stuff with a jaundiced eye, cut non-essentials and find another potential market. Also, it's useful to be happy with less than "perfection". To understand when what I've got is good enough to send back out. Perfection is an elusive concept. It doesn't really exist.

Circling back to mountaineering, cutting non-essentials is a critical skill there as well. Sure, I could bring everything but the kitchen sink in my pack, but I've found I do better with a pack that weighs in at under 30 pounds. So, I compromise. If I move quickly, it doesn't matter that I don't have uber-warm  clothing. I'm always warm once I crawl into my sleeping bag at night. And perfection is any day in the backcountry. The days I reach my goal only seem better. The reality is they're all the same.

There are many other similarities that I'll expound on in later posts. Just wanted to break up the cavalcade of guest author posts with an opinion or two!

Anybody want to weigh in? What are the similarities between your avocations?

2 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, hiking is a passion of mine. Although I never made the connection with writing, I did find my hiking experience to be incredibly comforting and motivational during the labor and delivery of my first child. In my preparations for birth, I ran across this image in Husband Coached Childbirth by Dr. Bradley:

    http://tgaw.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/bradley-hikers-small.png

    It looked like the elevation map of my favorite mountain on the Appalachian Trail. "Transition" would be when I would hit the thick rhododendron patch near the top of the mountain. It was the steepest part, but the quickest part... and when it was done, an absolutely gorgeous view!

    I also knew how on my early hikes, I would want to cry and I would have doubts as to whether I would make it to my destination--- but each time my body was much more capable than my mind expected. So I knew in labor I may doubt myself, but my body was still going to be able to accomplish its goal. My body was still designed to birth my son.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post and giving me cause to think about the mountains. :)

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    1. Hi Vicky,
      Thanks for your interesting comment. I really liked the analogy between the Appalachian Trail and childbirth. Sounds like you have a wonderfully positive and "can-do" attitude. That makes all the difference in everything we do.
      Because I live on the west coast, I've focused on the long trails here like the PCT and the Colorado Trail. But hiking the Appalachian is definitely on my bucket list. The pictures are stunning.

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