‘Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyse you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.’ Bernice Johnson Reagan
Everybody has their own Mount Everest. I know an actor whose Mount Everest is memorising lines. An entrepreneur whose Mount Everest is time management. A lecturer whose Mount Everest is public speaking.
My Mount Everest
For a very long time, my Mount Everest has been writing. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but here was my problem: I loved thinking about writing, not actually doing it. As a teenager, I would tell myself that if only I had a computer and not have to rely on writing by hand, I would start writing. Then I got a computer, and I wrote precisely two short stories – both of them on the eve of school exams.
That was the odd thing: whenever I had something else to do, like a deadline for a school assignment, or an exam to prepare for the next day, I loved nothing better than to write. Other than at those times, writing was my Mount Everest.
This state of affairs continued while I was at university. Luckily I had lots of essays to write for my courses, so actually I got a fair bit of writing done; but only because I had to do it. During the holidays, months would pass with little or no writing.
Over the past few years, as I have become more and more interested in creating legacy, and started asking myself how I would like to create my legacy, I realised that the answer had been staring me in the face all along: writing. I could feel it in my bones. I had to climb my Mount Everest.
Academic work came to the rescue again: I was doing a PhD at the time, and eventually I had to start work on my doctoral thesis. I did everything I could to avoid it. I got a full-time job for a few months. Then I started a business. I became involved in politics. I became a member of 6 different committees, with 6 different organisations. I set up coffee meetings with friends. The list goes on. I kept eyeing up my Mount Everest, not daring to take the first step.
Eventually, things got serious. Time was passing at lightining speed, and I started to worry that if I didn’t have some draft chapters to show soon, I would get kicked out of my PhD programme. Time to start climbing.
Panic helped. I used my supervisor’s return from maternity leave as my personal deadline – and by the time we had our first meeting, only 8 weeks from when I started writing, I had a half-way decent first draft of about 60,000 words. Not bad.
Climbing takes much longer than you think
Ah, well. Then my supervisor read the draft. And suggested changes. Again. And again. And again. The draft that took me 8 weeks to write took me another 14 months to rewrite. This was three times the amount of time I had thought I needed to get the thesis finished. Very dark times indeed.
Yesterday, as I was reading through my thesis (I have to prepare for my viva, coming up in 2 weeks time), I was hit by a sudden realisation: since handing in my completed thesis mid-December, I haven’t really stopped writing. In fact, writing has been almost my full-time occupation since starting to write the thesis – and this didn’t change when I finished the thesis. After 16 months of having to write every day for my thesis, writing had become such a daily habit that I didn’t even think much about it. Even on really busy days, I still manage to get some writing done. Writing is no longer my Mount Everest.
There’s always another Mount Everest
Well, it’s not that simple. I may now have what I call the ‘writing habit’, but most of my writing tends to be non-fiction; this blog, for example. What I really want is to be able to write fiction as easily and habitually as I write non-fiction. Over the past few months, since handing in my thesis, this has been my new Mount Everest. I’m climbing it slowly – it’s important to pace yourself when climbing – but I’m trying to do a bit of climbing every day. Last week I’ve started an experiment that seems to be working better than anything I’ve tried before. I’ll keep you posted, and I’ll keep climbing.
What’s your story?
What is your Mount Everest? Have you started climbing it yet? Be brave, and share your experiences with the rest of us. We’d all love to hear your story.
Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, consider subscribing to receive new blog posts by email. Thanks for reading.