Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
I remember saying those words and, then later in life, hearing that same phrase over and over and over from the backseat every time we set out on some great adventure. The constant barrage of anticipation became a combination of nails on the chalkboard and water boarding all rolled up into one tidy little torture package, released at every red light, gas station and pee stop along the route.
Are we there yet? The idea, instilled into us when we were snot bubbling little tikes, is that the destination is what matters. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the big payoff, and the buried treasure worth all the struggle and sacrifice. Many times, the anticipation doesn’t live up to the hype. So focused on reaching that destination, we miss the journey. We’re left unfulfilled. I’m here. Is that all there is?
I did a bit of rock climbing a few years back. Nothing technical, just your typical boulder hopping scramble. Pyramid Peak is a bit over 9,980 feet at the summit and most of the people take the peak form the east. I decided that I’d go from the northwest. I later found out why people avoided this route.
Not long after I rose above the tree line, the inclined rock face steepened and the flakes of granite talus made it difficult to get a solid footing. The loose rocks slid under each step and with every move forward, I’d slide down the rock face five feet. I leaned into the wall, reached for the next rock ledge and slipped back another ten feet. After a few more slip and slides, I found my path to the summit.
Now, a few years later, I couldn’t tell you what the view looked like from the summit. Oh, I’m sure it was beautiful, looking down on Lake Tahoe, but that’s not what I remember from that excursion. I remember the journey. I remember the feel of sliding down the rock, the challenge of finding a different path to the top and working a way off the ledge.
Writing is the same thing.
I hear a number of writers say “Are we there yet?” in the way they approach publishing.
I’m a huge supporter of author-publisher and indie books. There are dozens of examples of authors who’ve braved going it alone and made a path for others to follow with good stories. A potential pitfall to the indie choice, is that it can lead authors to focus on the destination, and not the journey. Hitting the publish button before a book is ready is like saying, “Are we there yet?” Focused only on the outcome. You can tell when you read a book that seems forced, or rushed. It becomes another rock on the mountain of nameless books.
I finished my first manuscript about seven years ago. I thought it was ready for a trip up the mountain. I slid on the slippery slope of rejection letters and self doubt that all authors experience. The mountain made me rework the manuscript, learning more about character, dialogue and structure with each new manuscript along the way. When Little River was published last year, it made me appreciate the journey.
I’m a better writer now than I was seven years ago, stuck on that rock ledge. I still have to remember to take the time, experience the journey and enjoy the writing. Every new book project has its own mountain. I’m certain I’ll trip and fall on the path, but I’ll experience every step along the way.
What about you? Have you been trapped on the ledge? Or, are you an “Are we there yet?” writer?
I always enjoy hearing from you…
Loved this post and I SO needed to read this today. I’m at that point where I am so frustrated with my ms, I’d like to hurl it out the window. 🙂 Thanks for putting things in perspective and reminding us to stay the course. Happy writing!!
I’m with you. I get to the hurling stage more often than I’d like. Then, I need a moment or four, to let things settle and get back on the path. You’ll be fine with your manuscript. I’ve seen your writing and have no doubt about it.
As a new writer, I catch myself comparing my slipping and sliding up the rock-face to a published author’s perch higher up. I forget that their published book may have been 7 years in the making. You’re right, it is time to stop with the “are we there yet” and simply enjoy wherever we are in the learning and growing process. Thanks for another well-timed reminder, James.