On Saturday morning, I got a call from my dad asking if the kids could spend the night. “Yes, yes YES!” I wanted to scream. But I restrained myself. I didn’t want to seem too eager because he might get suspicious and change his mind.
After confirming that my husband saw no issues with it, I got back on the phone. “It looks like it’ll be okay,” I told my dad with barely-concealed excitement. Just the idea of not being badgered at six in the morning by two kids who wanted us to wake up motivated me to get their bags packed ASAP.
Without the kids to deal with on Sunday morning, we decided to scout out a new hiking trail instead of go to church. (You don’t set out on an unknown trail with kids. Trust me; we’ve done it.) I found the hike difficult because I get lazy during the summer. I don’t like to do much of anything when the temperatures stay in triple-digits for months at a time. (I just made an excuse to justify my inactivity; did you catch that?)
I mostly dragged myself along, perking up only when others passed by. I mean, I couldn’t let total strangers see that I could barely lift my feet; especially the ones thirty years older than me. During the hike, my feet navigated the dirt and rock trails, giving my body a good workout, while my mind struggled to solve the jigsaw puzzle of story pieces that swirled around in my head.
The stories were pushed aside, and the idea for this post started when we saw a curious young man approach and then walk by us on the trail. He barely broke a sweat as he trudged along in his flip-flops. He had a knap sack over his shoulder, but otherwise looked more pool-ready than hike-ready. (My husband, being the suspicious one, said the man looked like he could be a murderer and he probably carried a bow and arrow in the backpack.)
I moved faster at the thought of an arrow aimed at my backside. Not to be left in the dust, my brain started noting similarities between hiking and writing preparation:
For a hike: Wear proper footwear and attire. If you’re hiking in warm weather, you wouldn’t wear sweat pants; likewise, in the winter, dress in layers that can be peeled off if needed. No matter what time of year, wear closed-toed shoes (hiking boots are best, but tennis shoes are okay too). Think snakes, scorpions or mountain lions. Do you think you’d stand a chance in rubber flip-flops?
For a writing journey: Be prepared to spend months, or even years, longer than you anticipated for a complete novel. Realize the difference between a finished and completed work. (Finished means you’ve got a beginning, middle and end; completed comes after several rounds of proofing and revisions.)
For a hike: Bring water and small snack, even for short hikes because you never know when you’ll need it. If the hike takes longer than expected, you’ll be glad you had water and a granola bar.
For your creativity: Write down story ideas as they come to you. Even if you don’t have time to write the complete story, you can browse through old ideas and fill them in later when you hit a creative dry spell. Oh, news stories can also trigger a fiction story idea; write those down too!
On good trails: Ask others what they think of the trails. Find out their favorite trails, what they look for in a ‘good’ trail and get a feel for their level of ability.
On your writing: Ask others to read your writing and give you feedback. Look for people who can be honest (but not brutal). A pat on the back gives a warm, fuzzy feeling, but does it make you write any better? No! Now, the person that can point out weaknesses? That’s who you want for a beta reader. If you’re more thick-skinned, or desire a thicker skin, you can go the online route. (QueryTracker.net members help each other refine a query, synopsis and even critique the first 5 pages of a manuscript). Warning: some of the feedback can be hard to handle, but most of the advice is solid. Also, beware of overly snarky comments; anyone who feels the need to harshly criticize is probably doing so out of their own insecurity (thus, the critique is about them and not your work.)
Don’t go it alone
Hiking: You should always hike with at least one other person. If you fall, have a heart attack or run into desert wildlife, your odds are much better if there’s at least one other person with you.
Writing: Being a lone writer isn’t noble; it’s lonely. Build a network of friends (in person or online) who can empower you with the strength to keep going. If you’re ready to give up, these people can get you moving again. A definite must-have for every writer!
The scenery when hiking: Take in the view of the city from the top of the hill. Appreciate your accomplishment, because you still have to get back down. Reward yourself for a hike completed without injuries. (We had a donut after our hike. I know, it defeats the purpose, but don’t judge me.)
The writing ride: Don’t put so much focus on getting published that you forget to enjoy the little steps toward that lofty goal. Reward yourself for completed projects and innovative ideas. (After I finish a draft of a project, I give myself a break from it before starting in on the editing portion.)
Have a beautiful journey. If you have any other hiking-writing comparisons, please share!