My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Looking Back Down the Mountain

The biggest thing around here to hike is Mt. Diablo.  Technically there's Mt. Tamalpais, but it's a longer drive, a shorter hike, and from a totally subjective opinion, the view from the top is somewhat less effective in inspiring a reaction of: "What does it all even MEAN?"

I like having existential crises when I'm looking out from the tops of mountains. That's basically the best thing about being up there. The more existential the crisis, the better. I hate getting up there and not feeling the crushing sense that I'm the most insignificant speck of mammal dust ever to crawl across the surface of a tiny planet in a backwater spiral of one of hundreds of BILLIONS of galaxies. But also that my small and insignificant mammalian ass just crawled to the tippy top of this very big thing. And fuck you, mountain, with your big enormous self, I just will-to-powered right up the side...of your face.

See Mt. Diablo is just out there in the middle of nowhere.  Hamilton. Tam. All those other mountains are lots of peaks and so you get a great view...of the peak over there.  But Mt Diablo sticks out of the middle of the ground so far from anything else that from the top, you can actually see the curvature of the Earth--in fact, its viewshed in several directions is only limited by the Earth's curve.

Existential city!

Uh....is this a blog about Mt. Diablo or was there going to be some sort of point about writing soon?

Shut up, evil italics voice.  I'm getting to that.

If you're hiking to the summit of Mt. Diablo from Mitchell Canyon, much of your upward ascent is early in your hike along a fire access road that runs something like a 16% grade on average with bits going as high as 20.

Oh, right, this is totally about writing.

Shut up.  I'm almost there.

So if you've ever hiked trails this steep, it basically feels like you're going about as "up" as you can without actually being climbing instead of hiking. Each step becomes a tiny shuffle. And even though the worst bit of it is only about a half a mile, it takes nearly an hour and causes muscles you didn't know you had to start letter writing campaigns against your decision to do such a silly thing as go climb a mountain.

Welcome to my blog everyone: Writing About Nothing.

Damn it, let me finish!

Anyway, here you are taking steps that feel like they're about an inch each, and you've been working for an hour, and your calves are screaming, and you look up and it doesn't look like you've even really moved at all...

But then you stop and turn around.

And down beneath you, you see entire cities--cities it takes you a half an hour to drive through even in mild traffic--sprawled out and tiny lines of freeway slicing through them like grey thread. You see neighborhoods and housing tracts like colored patches in a speckled mosaic. And you realize that you may not think you were moving, but you're already looking some 1500 feet down.  You just got caught up in how small the steps felt and how far you had to go.

Okay, I think I see where you might be heading with this.  Jesus, take long enough.

Even the first time I climbed Mt. Diablo, I realized how much a metaphor for writing it really was. Writers can get so caught up in how far they still have to go, in how it feels like they're just not getting anywhere, that sometimes they forget to look back down the mountain and see how far they've come.

And I think it's one of the biggest mistakes a young writer can make.

Because it can be so frustrating not to get that perspective once in a while.

So here is my look down the mountain:

  • I have been writing daily (for the most part) for 20 years.
  • I have two manuscript drafts.  They need revision but they are written.
  • I have at least six or seven solid ideas for other longer works including at least one multi-part fantasy saga rolling around in my noodle.
  • I have a degree in creative writing. Technically that's an English major with emphasis, but I learned a lot about craft and process.
  • I have been blogging for two years, and successfully writing an official entry 5-7 times per week.
  • If my blog were printed up it would be roughly 1200-1800 pages.
  • I have put three of my short stories here to great reception.
  • My fourth bit of creative non-fiction is also getting good response, and should be completed soon.
  • I made $280 in my first year of blogging.  About $1/day.
  • I made about $1200 this year from blogging.  (It's only about a dollar an hour, but it's still an improvement over last year.)
  • I have consistently, unerringly, and definitively made life decisions that have prioritized writing over other facets of life--including money, a social life, and even family.  That's not necessarily a "good" thing (or a "bad" thing) but it does show I am serious when push comes to shove.
  • I get an average of 1000 page views every day. 
  • This blog is just a day or two away from getting 600,000 page views.
  • I am more widely read than most first time published authors.  By the numbers, I am more widely read than most authors who are on their second or even third book. (Provided they did not first blog or write as a journalist or something.)
  • I still love writing. It still makes me content in a way that nothing else does.
There will always be frustration. I think with the exception of a handful of household names, most writers will always feel like they wish they were further along in their career trajectory or that they were making faster progress.  Some days it can really feel like the wheels are just spinning in the mud.

But don't forget, at least once in a while, to turn around and look back down the mountain.  


  1. Just one point - "well read" could be confused for "well-read". At first glance, I thought you were claiming to have a better education or exposure to literature than most first time published authors. I'm guessing the intended meaning was that you have more readers than those guys, right? (I believe the lack of a hyphen makes it mean what you want it to mean, but I still got confused.)