Tag Archives: path

Guest Post: No Mountain is High Enough

Sometimes when Novice Wordsmith and I write, we try and beat a wordcount bar; whether it’s the 50K of NaNoWriMo or some other arbitrary number, it’s a goalpost to shoot for.

I’ve had years where I’ve done really well, pushing 100K words, and other times where I barely made it over the bar.
But like the climbers that just finished a 19-day free climb of El Capitan, the reasons for doing it are to have a direction to climb.    What we find sometimes is that a story can’t be quantified by ‘X words’ — it demands more.  A short story becomes a novella; a novel becomes a trilogy, because ones words just can’t be contained by a wordcount _limit_.
Similarly, at times the words just don’t come.   They’re lodged in our unconscious writers’ block of iced out ideas, and we just stare at the blinking cursor or blank page and nothing happens.  We start stressing because time is ticking, and our wordcount average is falling behind.
And yet we’re capable of superhuman authoring bursts of thousands of words in a single day — when the story demands it.   When the time is short.   The ‘right’ way to win NaNo is to meet or beat your daily average, since there is a defined ‘stop’ time at the end of the month, but for me, once November is over, I used to stop writing no matter where I was in the month.
Fifty thousand, sixty thousand, fifty four thousand two hundred and one — it didn’t matter.  I’d stop cold, and say, “I’m taking a break from this.”
The mountain of words was too high.
But the thing is, not everyone can reach the summit of a novel.   Sometimes the avalanche of words comes crashing down and you think your novel is a confused mess of words without resemblance to the perfect climbing path, with waypoints and scene interludes just _gone_, and you don’t know what to do next.
Other times, the way is clear, the steps to get from point A to point B are crystal clear in your head and make it onto the page — or you discover an even better route to the top of the peak — that ability to place that ‘Finished/The End’ flag there with triumph, and you can look back down at the beginning of the novel and go, ‘wow.  I wrote all that?’
But really, don’t see your novel and your writing as one mountain.   There are several large mountains in the world that people attempt to climb every day; there are also small hills, rocky outcroppings, and the tricky climbing wall of haiku or a screenplay to tackle.   Every person’s writing ascent is different, done for their own rationale and reasons (or lack thereof) and finding what challenges you to keep writing — and your wordcount climbing — is something you find within, rather than without.
Moreover, whether you’re at the top or at the bottom, you should always be looking to the horizon, to see what the next mountain in your path might be.
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Competition and Success

For the longest time, I remember being in limbo between being a great writer and being a writer who’s better than all of the others. Reading turns into a pissing match of how you could outperform someone, and how you could get the attention of an audience better than that author. Writing turns into a competition instead of a past time or something you want to do for a living, something you enjoy.

It seems like one of the most fundamental lessons, to see every other writer as a potential teacher instead of someone you’re in a race with. When you take the competition out, it changes completely. You’re more relaxed about your writing, you take it in stride, you bury yourself in it and you do what you feel comfortable with. You’re more able to find your style and run with it than trying to one-up someone else or make a “Style to Rule them All.”

A lot of it came from when I was younger, writing in school and others telling me how well I did. Swollen ego can do that to you, and being around people who have written for longer and can do it better than you is an extremely humbling experience if you have that problem.

I forget what really happened to make me stop and reconsider what I was doing, but I know it happened in the past couple of years. Probably, I’m willing to bet it came from a talk with Friend about writing style. An attack of feeling too self-conscious about how I was doing or not doing, and the all too famous, “but this person, got published, I bet I could do better!”

There are literally several dozen thousands of writers out there, if not millions. Both published authors and unpublished. There will be published authors you read and think your skill is better than theirs, and unpublished ones who baffle the hell out of you when you find out they’ve never been published. It is seriously such a mixed bag, but don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Someone will find worth in your writing, if you want to get published. There is an audience out there.

It’s never about who you’re better than, but how you are, and how you do it.

Seeing others as someone to learn from opens new doors for you, to see what might work in your worlds or not, to test your own limits, to add to your vocabulary or your collection of ideas in some association. You go from bitter to supportive, wishing them the best in their endeavors instead of putting them down because you haven’t found your own success.

It’s so much easier for me to be happier for others, and that includes life outside of writing.

And so much nicer, not to get down about things. After coming to the realization that everything happens at different points in life for everyone, it became a lot easier for me to be happier. I know plenty of people think it’s a crock of shit to say that everything happens for a reason, but the phrase has given me a lot of peace of mind, and has made a lot easier to swallow in my life. Just because I’m not married or not popping out kiddos or traveling the world or working for a fortune 500 company or a world-renowned author by now, doesn’t mean I’m failing at life. It just means there are other things in my future.

Of course, it doesn’t mean sit around waiting for something to happen, it means: Make it happen, don’t let an inflated ego or a bruised one keep you down, go for it. Get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

For those who think that you can’t make your dreams come true, maybe it doesn’t work that easy for you. At least, find something that does, and do it until you can’t stand it anymore.

– The Novice Wordsmith