At the Top?

“They take pictures of climbers at the top of the mountain. They’re smiling, triumphant. They don’t take picture along the way, because who wants to remember the rest of it. We push ourselves because we have to, not because we like it. The relentless climb, the pain and anguish of taking it to the next level, nobody takes picture of that. Nobody wants to remember. We just want to remember the view from the top. The breathtaking moment at the edge of the world. That’s what keeps us climbing. And it’s worth the pain. That’s the crazy part. It’s worth anything.” — Grey’s Anatomy, March 11, 2010

I’ve kind of gone against the main principle in this Grey’s Anatomy quote —  here I’ve been spilling my guts all over the place; showing every bloody, gross wound; every slip and fall along the way. Ah well, I want to remember where I’ve been. You never know when you’re going to get slapped upside the head with a big bomb again. I want to remember how to pull myself out of the ravine.

And plus I’m not really on my way to the top. What would possibly be the top anyway? Everyday has something wonderful in it. Is that moment the top? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I am loving the journey right now. All of it. There are still moments of self-doubt, of questions I can’t answer, and the stress that goes with that. Yet, after feeling the stress and fear, I move towards the excitement of not knowing, of wanting to see what’s around the corner. Because the one thing I have seen and do know, things just fall into place if you get the hell out of the way.

I don’t know if I have ever before felt this good and been this optimistic. That scares me a little bit. I know about the good going bad. But I refuse to worry.

The writing class that I had on Friday and Saturday was called. “How to Plan, Write, and Develop a Book” and was taught by Mary Carroll Moore. Mary is a wonderful teacher and also has a great blog on writing. The funny thing was that not only did her book planning lecture and the exercises she had us do give me all sorts of writing ideas and “ah hah” moments, they also jogged insights on my life’s journey. Weird right?

When my X and I first married, I felt like it was the beginning of my life. And when he declared he was divorcing me, I felt like it was the end of my life. As I look at it now, as I start to come back into myself and do the things that I love and be with the people I love being with, I realize I had it all wrong. I was on hold for quite awhile. I won’t say that this is the beginning, because that discounts the rest of my life, and more and more I see that even the ugliest parts of my life — well, I’d still rather have skipped them, but — I can now at least appreciate how much I know because of the things I’ve been through. And not feel icky about it all the time.

About the most valuable thing I learned in the class, and believe me, I learned a ton, but the thing I’ve already been putting into use is something Mary called “managing creative tension”. When writers have written something particularly difficult or that they feel is especially brilliant or have just come up with an amazing idea, they often feel this immense energy or tension. It can be uncomfortable. To me, it feels like I am going to explode or that it’s just too much.

At these times, writer’s often want to find a way to dissipate this energy or share it with someone. It feels like too much to hold in.

Mary’s recommendation — Don’t do it! Sit with your feelings for awhile. Allow the energy to be. Then take a walk, listen to music, cook, whatever it takes to deal with having that feeling. Because if you go to someone else too soon, you may lose this energy that you need to sustain you in the long run so you can complete what you started.

The person you go to might not share your enthusiasm. They might even criticize your idea. They might ask you questions you aren’t prepared to answer because you haven’t yet fully developed your idea or your creation. They may rob you of your energy and enthusiasm. Give it time to incubate.

My first opportunity to try following this principle came while I was singing at church and suddenly realized that my book is not about what I thought it was and that the story starts with something completely different than what I was thinking. I don’t even like this discovery. It changes everything and will take me somewhere I didn’t really want to go. But this is another thing we were told to watch for, that eventually the book may start to talk to us. Oh, great! All I need is another voice in my head…

So I am now incubating this exciting but somewhat unwelcome revelation, and will be doing so until I can fully develop this new direction and see if it really works. Books are journeys in themselves. You never know exactly how they’ll turn out.

I also was able to use this management of tension idea on questions and thoughts that have been troubling me lately. It was another tip from Mary, that sometimes you just need to live with unanswered questions. Just jot them down and forget about them for now. The answers often come if we just leave them alone.

I certainly didn’t expect to learn ways to be more at peace with life itself from a class on planning and writing books, but somehow, that’s what I received.

Mary has a class on revising your draft coming up in October. That gives me deadline to shoot for. I wonder what besides revision I’ll learn in that class?

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  1. I completely agree – it’s the journey that counts, not the destination. Loving the journey is what matters. Actually, even before I saw your post, I had that in mind as a theme for a post on my blog after a neighbor commented that my snowshoe tracks didn’t seem to “go anywhere”.

  2. So true. It’s the journey that counts. Peaks and valley’s mold us and shape us into stronger people. Gold has to be refined, we would never become refined sittin’ on a mountain top. Great post sweetie….you sound good! (me smiling my whole face smile here) :o)

    God bless ya and enjoy the journey.

  3. KB – Can’t wait to see what you come up with in your post! You’ve been a great influence on me in this area.

    Nezzy – I think I’ve been held to the fire and pounded into shape. Smiling back at ya. 😀

  4. I’m so glad you found the seminar helpful because some of them … not so much.

    One of the chunks of advice about not sharing your inspiration sounds a bit too much like an icky thing someone once told me:

    Don’t tell people your dreams because they’ll do everything to make sure they don’t come true.

    I doubt that’s where your instructor was going, but that’s what I heard in my head. Hate that.

    You know, we used to use the tagline for our blog: A blog about hope and hard work.

    Since our redesign, we’re using … a dog blog, where everything is a work in progress … which addresses your theme here nicely.

  5. Roxanne – I guess what she said really resonated with me because I’ve had fellow writers and “loved ones” sabotage me. I agree with what she was saying in that you need time with your ideas to get them concrete and strong enough that what people say doesn’t crush you. It’s not that people do this on purpose. They just want you spending time with them or taking care of them rather than spending time writing.

    Far Side – It’s healthy for me to get back to the writing, whether it ever gets published or not. Writing is how I process information and figure things out. Without it, I get pretty screwy. You have been putting out some great writing on your blog. Such great photos too!

  6. What they said– 🙂
    Yeah, I totally agree with not sharing your idea too soon. It does take the wind out of it somehow. It is realy tempting though, because I know what you mean about feeling like there is something too big inside you making you nearly explode. such is our lot I guess. 😉

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