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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?