When Writers Face a Constant Climb

Photo by Anna Langova
Photo by Anna Langova

Sandstone boulders and harnesses and ropes, not really what I had envisioned when the new guy picked me up and we headed out for the afternoon—our first date together.

Girlie-girl me had somehow landed in a ragtop Jeep headed for some serious rock-climbing. Or so Mr. New Guy thought—what actually happened was girlie-girl watched some cute guy scale the side of a cliff, up, down, and sideways.

But getting to the top wasn’t his end-all plan. He seemed most challenged {and the proudest} when he slipped and then recovered. The catch and the readjustment seemed just as exciting to him as the time he stood at the top and waved high from the completed climb.

It’s been a few years since I sat in that ragtop and watched that guy climb. Seems I was about as interested in him as I was in climbing those rocks myself.

Why would we pull ourselves up the sheer face of something just so we can?

We do it more than we think, though, us writers. This writing for publication can be slow and hard. I have a {very thick} notebook full of rejections to prove it. Countless queries I thought would please never flew, never left their cage. And I mourned their loss. Made untold threats to quit, to lay down my pen.

Doubt can eclipse a budding hope if we allow.

But finally came my first assignment: a book review. I landed a column as a book reviewer, and my name held a place on a website that traveled the world. No matter there was no pay, I was writing. And I simply had to write.

Funny thing, though: that column landed me my first paid gig as a columnist for an established online magazine. With pay. This I celebrated. I framed a copy of the paycheck and then headed to my local electronics stores and nabbed a digital camera I’d had my eyes on for months.

From there, I secured an interview with a leading Christian author and sold that query to an international publication, and that one article led to contacts with other magazines and freelancing for the next few years. Meanwhile, my notebook of rejections grew thicker. Another brilliant idea shelved. Another dedicated period of grief. Another resolution to pack it up, find something else to do with my time.

Why do we allow fear and hurt to cloud our hope? To stall our dreams?

Looking back I realize that much like my rock-climbing friend from earlier years, my greatest sense of accomplishment came from those very moments I slipped, those critical steps I took to recover. I made my way to a writer’s conference where I could improve my craft, which led to securing an agent, which eventually led to a book contract, and that led me to my debut book. But there’s so much more to come. And to get there, I have to be willing to slide sideways when my quickdraws don’t connect just right, ready to race ahead when the space opens wide, or even to fall with grace when the fall comes {and they always come}.

There’s something that happens when we surrender to the process, when we climb for the sheer sake of the climb. I’m learning there is no end. If my sole focus was waving high from the top, I imagine I may be disappointed should I ever stand there. It’s been said before in countless ways, but in the life of a writer I’ve experienced it true, “the journey is the reward.”

Deeper Still: What setbacks have you faced on your writing journey? What readjustments have you made, or do you need to make in order to continue the climb?


10 Replies to “When Writers Face a Constant Climb”

  1. As a new author I find that small goals that are reachable help with the climb. That way when you fall you don’t have far to go. That doesn’t mean it will not be risky. Realizing that as a Christian we don’t climb to the top to be king of the mountain, but rather share our gifts in a lateral plane to exalt Jesus, helps with the difficulty and dissapointment during the climb. I am grateful for those who have found their footing and reached out to help others with encouragement.

  2. Every writer faces setbacks, most come from rejections. My passion is writing fiction, but God has me on a path of writing about grief, having first-hand experience through the death of my son. It’s not what I would choose to write, but it’s the story God wants told. The rejections I receive are like being in sales: the more No’s you get, the closer you are to Yes.

    1. Oh Jane, I’m so very sorry for your loss. But I am thankful for your willingness to follow God’s leading on somehow using the story, as only God can orchestrate. And yes, get those No’s out of the way and get your Yes! Praying for you this moment.

  3. Thank you! I’m about to take the journey into Published Authorhood (via Amazon). I’ve been kinda hemming and hawing on the edge of this little crevice, doing busy work while working up the guts to finish the last couple steps of this particular little mountian. Definitely time to start climbing again!

    By the way, I’m going to reblog this. It’s too good to keep to myself. 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Rose's Road and commented:
    This! This post describes the ups and downs, the uh-ohs and the victories of a writing career in the concept of rock climbing.
    I’m still feeling like a total noobie at this writing thing, but she gives hope to the beginner.
    Enjoy! 😀

  5. Jo Ann – I had a whole long comment to share – and my computer and wordpress conspired to eat it. GONE! Sheesh…well perhaps I wasn’t supposed to write all of that after all. I need to stop fearing the wall and climb, not just for others, but for me. Great piece here my dear.

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