I am clearly no map-reader; because it amazed me how the lines of a trail map could look so flat compared to the reality of the steep hill we were climbing. I was plowing up the hill trying, by sheer force of will, to motivate
my seven year old to follow. She, on the other hand, was lagging behind with her dad, every so often trying to grab the backpack he wore so he could pull her (you can imagine how that went.)
Finally, at a shady spot, we stopped and took a break and after a bit of water and rest we got ready to move again. She told us that this was no longer the “best day ever”… and I told her that in order to have a best day, you
sometimes had to have a worst.
I’m not sure my life philosophy made sense to her, but I have been thinking about it ever since. There are a lot of highs with writing: The moment when my story comes together in the most amazing and unexpected way; the
kudos I get from friends, family or best of all, readers; the completion of a story I thought I would never finish.
But for each of these high points, writers are overwhelmed with many more low points: characters I can’t seem to make come alive; rejection after rejection from agents; family or friends who focus on the errors in the writing rather than the sweet success of having written at all. Each of these is enough to keep many people from doing the hard dirty work of sticking with it, day after day.
And, unlike some things which you can’t back out of once you have started (having a child or taking a hike, though not necessarily of the same magnitude, both come to mind here), with writing it is easy to let the manuscript sit unfinished…. Something perhaps to be worked on at some nebulous future date.
So, why do we do it? What keeps an author in her seat (other than the tall non-fat latte) when we are ready to pull out our hair in frustration?
Those moments of high come at a price… and for some are so orgasmically great that they make up for all of the pain we may suffer for the craft. Like raising children, it is difficult to understand the joys until you experience them. But to new writers I would just say, there would be no books if the highs didn’t truly exist.
The view looking out from behind the waterfalls was spectacular… it was worth the price of the long climb back up the mountain. And today, when I asked my daughter what my overhear should be her answer was:
“Best day ever.”