Today, I’m not driving the Grand Tetons. But I am headed to some beautiful country – the two-lane roads of New England on vacation with my friend K. I won’t be thinking about writing much, but that’s what my friends are for. Today, Shawn Smucker reminds us that the writing life is not about big leaps . . . but regular steps up the mountain.
The Grand Teton mountain range rose in front of us. Warning signs lined the road, equipped with flashing yellow lights and information on size restrictions. As I drove the bus further up the mountain, the road began to twist and turn, a thread thrown against the rocky cliffs.
Halfway up the 8400 foot-high pass, we had to pull the bus over: the engine was overheating. As we sat there in the pull-off area, the bus tilting backwards at an eerie angle, I got out and looked over the edge. I took a quick step backwards, my breath caught in my throat, and I said a quick prayer that our emergency brake would hold.
It was a long way down.
* * * * *
Getting to the top of a mountain wouldn’t be difficult, or garner such admiration and praise, if all it took to get to the top was one big jump. Imagine if arriving at the summit of Mt. Everest simply meant showing up at base camp, putting on your sneakers, and jumping to the top, looking around for a minute, then jumping back down. Everyone would do it, and no one would care.
The most beautiful views generally require trekking up the most treacherous paths.
Recently I’ve felt slightly discouraged in my writing life. I haven’t made any big leaps. I haven’t felt the heady ecstasy of some amazing accomplishment. I haven’t convinced an editor to publish a book or impressed an agent with my undeniable potential. My blog numbers have plateaued. My rejections folder has expanded.
There’s no easily attainable mountaintop in sight. No six-figure advance. No burgeoning royalty checks.
But today I was reminded once again of the importance of small steps, the crucial nature of a routine that has me creating consistently, regardless of the current view.
Because someday I will get to the top of the mountain, and the view will be beautiful. But I will also have to get back down the mountain, a process which will be just as fraught with danger and fear as the climbing process. So today I will enjoy the view that I have, even if it’s slightly blocked by trees or rocky outcroppings.
I will take a few more small steps, knowing that the summit isn’t going anywhere.