In his book Letters from the Mountain (Rabbit Room Press), author Ben Palpant writes to his writer-daughter about this ascent up the mountain called writing. Page after page of this intimate encouragement of a well-traveled author-dad for his newer-to-the-journey daughter unfolds to warm, warn, and fortify the reader…who is also likely a writer.
I’ve underlined something on almost every page as I work through this book as if it were both energy bar and map, both hydration and sunscreen. This line early in the book caught my attention and is marked with an asterisk, a signal for me to return to it, remind myself and my clients.
This mountain is not conducive to ease. Day hikers never last long here. Ben Palpant, Letters from the Mountain
Writing is a challenging and difficult ascent.
The journey is hard? Yes it is. Day hikers never last long here.
The path is strewn with all manner of tripping hazards–failure, success, waiting, frustration, rejection, remorse, deep crevasses, crumbling cliff edges, ankle-twisting potholes of discouragement, flat rocks hiding forked-tongued slitherers of envy, pride, depression… Yes. Day hikers never last long here.
The route is longer, much longer than imagined. Yes. You will see some scenery from the lower outlooks, but the grandest is at the end of what seems an interminably long journey. But you are no day hiker, are you?
It’s not uncommon for an agent to be asked, “How long will this take?” or “Should it be taking this long?” or “What can I expect?”
The most truthful answer? It’s different for each hiker. The publishing weather is different for each journey. If predictability is what you crave for survival, this may not be right for you. If the peak is the only element that will give you joy and not the hike itself, then you’re likely to turn back before the vistas are glorious.
A mountain climber unprepared for the trip has little chance of survival. A climber unprepared for the uncertainties has even less chance.
Ask the hard questions.
Am I prepared for the long-haul or am I a writing day hiker?
Is my soul protected from harsh elements I might encounter?
Is my stamina equal to the slope?
Am I determined to be honest with myself about my level of commitment?
Am I resistant to or do I welcome the counsel of those who’ve walked the path before me?
Read the right books.
Books that will tell it straight and offer encouragement in the same breath. Consider these:
Letters from the Mountain by Ben Palpant (Rabbit Room Press)
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (Anchor)
The Inside Scoop: Two Agents Dish on Getting Published by Janet Grant and Wendy Lawton (Story Architect)
On Writing by Stephen King (Scribner)
What books do you tuck into your backpack as essential tools?
What is one line (like “Day hikers never last long here.”) that both sobers you to the realities and yet encourages you on your journey?