I wrote this essay a few years ago for a contest. The entry didn’t win, but it still expresses my thoughts:
I believe many things, but what I am seeing clearer each year is this: life is too short to be blunted by the notion that what is difficult should not be done; that only what is easy should be attempted; that even noble ends, if they cannot be achieved instantly or with minimal discomfort, must be set aside and replaced by what requires little sweat, little patience, little sacrifice of any kind.
I am a writer. My publishing accomplishments are few: essays, articles, short stories, poems. However, I want to be a novelist, and to that end I put one word at a time on paper until I have a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter, a manuscript. Some of my fellow writers tell me I am creating stories no one wants to read. I am doing what cannot be done.
But how does anyone know what the end will be? I am still climbing the mountain, and have not yet seen the view from the top. If others cannot see the mountain, is the mountain no longer there? Because others are weary, must I be content to sit beside them? If they seek another way, must I go with them? Must I convince myself—as some have—that half a journey is the entire trip?
Life so rarely happens as we would wish it. My teachers and friends were convinced that I would publish my first novel by age sixteen. That might have made me a novelty—no pun intended—but it might also have made a shallow book.
Now more than twice sixteen, I still have moments of doubt, of youthful uncertainty that anything I write is worth reading. Greater than my insecurity, however, is the knowledge that what makes me a writer is not measured by how I compare to others or how much money I make or how many people know my name, but by the fiery words that blister my brain and boil my dreams until the only way to cool my burning fingertips is to write. I am a writer because not writing is not an option.
Artists draw simulations of life. Photographers capture time. Sculptors push clay into action. Writers create movies for the mind.
The characters that people my thoughts are alive and very real, but they will remain in my imagination—unseen, unheard, unread—until I do the hard work and mold imagination into words on a page.
So the journey will pass—one word at a time, one page at a time—until the day I stand on top of the mountain and see that it is made of paper: reams and reams of it covered with words; wads of it tossed in to wastebaskets; some of it retrieved and smoothed out again and found to be not so bad after all.
This I believe: my greatest challenge is my greatest joy, and I would not have it otherwise.
3 thoughts on “Paper Mountains”
“life is too short to be blunted by the notion that what is difficult should not be done…”
“Some of my fellow writers tell me I am creating stories no one wants to read. I am doing what cannot be done.”
I hear likewise, and I’ll tell you right now: It can indeed be done. That was the life lesson of my year, this year.
“If others cannot see the mountain, is the mountain no longer there?”
What a perfect thought.
Thank you. The essay began as a stream-of-consciousness response to the naysayers, and then transformed into a personal manifesto. Sometimes, though, that climb up the mountain can be exhausting!
Yep. One small handhold at a time, eh…