This weekend I particpated in a high ropes course (yup, that is my picture on the left. It was taken during the first leg, when I still had the mistaken notion it might be fun and before the pain set in.). It was a training for the Junior League - supposed to be a bonding experience for the leadership team. Well, the morning worked out that way, and then in the afternoon we hit the ropes. Fifty feet above a tree filled ravine were a serious of seven rope and wire 'bridges'. Yes, our leader used that term, but I don't think a wire as thin as my little finger realistically should be called a bridge.
For me, this is when the team building stopped and the zen-like focus on myself kicked in. Sure, I was strapped into a safety harness. At that point falling didn't concern me so much as dangling from the harness if I did fall, and not having the upper body strenth to pull myself back up. I didn't care about my fifteen friends watching me, or looking like an idiot stretching for a handhold (obviously!). I just wanted to finish.
And yes, the first three legs were (almost) fun. But halfway across the super long, directly in the baking sun 4th wire, I got stuck. My hands were in agony from clutching the tiny wire. Cramped and sore, I didn't feel as if I could keep hanging on. So I threw my elbow up over the wire, essentially hanging from my armpit. Not comfortable, as all the bruises I have today will attest. But it gave my hands a break. Except, this isn't like catching your breath in the middle of a race. My hands still hurt for a good thirty six hours. I stood there, balanced on the trapeze wire, sweating, aching and 100% stuck in mid-air. There's no rescue. No escape ladder like on roller coasters. Just me, a wire, and a really long way to go until I hit the next tree.
I did whine for a moment. In my head (couldn't look like a complete weenie in front of my friends). Then I gave myself the talk. About how being stuck accomplishes nothing. The pain wouldn't go away (unless I hung there all night). Gloves wouldn't magically slide onto my hands. The only way to improve the situation was to dig deep and get moving. Now I truly wanted to hang there for another few minutes. But I still would've been in exactly the same situation. And probably even more freaked out about moving. So I (with a nod to Nike) just did it. Did I stop every few, shuffling feet to wipe my hands on my shorts? Sure! Did I chicken-wing it the rest of the way and scrape up the underside of my arms, just in case my hands let go? You bet. And sooner rather than later I made it to the next tree platform.
I still wasn't home free. There were three more legs to go. But they were easy compared to the monster I'd just conquered. And a good part of that monster was my own self-doubt and fear. Can anyone tell where this parable is headed? Yes, my ropes course challenge correlates perfectly to the writer's journey. How many of you have felt stuck? At the beginning, when it comes to choosing just the right name? In the sagging middle, when it is unforeseeable how to eke out an additional 45,000 words? When you haven't hit your word count in three weeks straight and to add insult to injury, three rejections pour in? Or that classic complaint of writer's block?
Writing is a solitary pursuit. You can talk to your friends, crit partners, other writers...but absolutely no one can swoop in and put the words on the page but you. Scary, huh? The key is to remember - even on the bad days - that we all write for a reason. Because you have a contract to fulfill, because there is a deadline, because you love to write, because ultimately there is little that gives such great satisfaction as being tickled to death by your own well crafted sentence. Because you have a story to tell. That motivation may feel elusive at times, but it is always there, deep down in your gut. All you have to do is remember no one can rescue your story, get it across the vast ravine of empty pages. Except you. So dig deep and persevere. It'll feel great when you're done!