Climbing the Literary Mountains

I remember the time from my early twenties when I first went to Tatra Mountains in southern Poland to hike.

Of course, I’ve been there before, but back then I was too young to consider the mountains something more than just pretty surroundings. Our parents took me and my brother around Zakopane, picturesque town at the foothills of the mountain, and strolled with us through valleys that looked like they’ve been stolen from fantasy books. I can still recall some of the views, particular places, the mood even though over a quarter of century passed since then.

Tatra Mountains, Czerwone Wierchy - by Ryszard Zuchowski
Tatra Mountains, Czerwone Wierchy – by Ryszard Zuchowski

But it was only little over ten years ago when I packed my backpack and embarked on a train to Zakopane knowing this time I won’t be simply admiring the mountains, I will be actually climing them. I felt excited and I felt ready: even if I wasn’t an athelete, more bookworm than a fitness freak, I knew I could walk for ages, so I saw no reason why I couldn’t make it to the very peaks.

Me and my friend started easily with a route that was not as demanding as the ones we aimed to travest during our stay. “Good for getting use to hiking and mountains air,” I was told. I took the point as being the weaker one of the two I was to set the pace and I felt comfortable with the route moving at my own speed. Long story short: I lost my breath after 30 minutes and, to my suprise, I already felt nearly exhausted. With the exhaustion came the doubt whether I can even climb the lowest peak, whether I am capable of going anywhere. My friend told me then: “You are going too fast. Slow down, you will preserve your breath and strenght.”

As you can guess, I argued. That the height and the distance stayed the same, that it shouldn’t matter whether I go fast or slow. I would use up the same amount of energy, and the only difference would be the time… But then, since all I could do is either to give up and constrain myself to valley strolls, or to listen to my friend’s advice, in the end I did what he told me.

During the two weeks of our stay in Zakopane, by following my friend’s advice, I managed to get to one of the highest and most beautiful places in the Polish part of Tatra Mountains. My memories as still vivid: full of breathtaking beauty of the places we’ve seen and with… a sense of having accomplished something.

The reason I share this personal experience is because I recently thought that writing might be a bit like hiking in the mountains: fast is not always the best way. I have to admit that recently I was a bit dissatisfied with the amount of writing I manage to do. Of course, writing discipline is necessary, but I felt a bit down by the fact that even if I sat down to write the outcome wasn’t much. Every week I looked at my word count and I called it “meager” at best.

Then I remembered the event I shared with you above and I realized that maybe I was trying to rush to the peak again. That it doesn’t matter how fast I go as long as I am still climbing, as long as I don’t give up. Maybe it will be longer before I finally climb the “novel” or “story” mountains, but once I do, there will be no feelings of dissatisfaction and relief that it is finally over. Just a joy of having taking my literary journey and a feeling of satisfaction.

Of course, there are deadlines sometimes, there is need to preserve some writing discipline, but I think it is also important to look at the brighter side of things. I don’t encourage you to find excuses for your laziness, but to stop disregarding any progress you make. Without positive approach you’re more likely to end up doubting yourself and questiong your writing, not finishing that story or novel that you started, aren’t you? In the end, how can everyone else support you, if you are not supporting yourselves?

Joanna Maciejewska

Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games. Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English. Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Tui Snider

    After years of cramming my writing life into any spare corners I could find, I finally allowed it to take center stage. This didn’t please everyone else in my life, but it pleased those who matter most. It feels so much better!

    1. melfka

      It surely does feel good, though I don’t really understand how it made you slow down? Or maybe to the contrary, you picked up the pace?

  2. frannystevenson

    Thanks, it was exactly the advice I needed! I feel very down because of my poor results…I have no time at all!

    1. melfka

      Same here. I also waste a lot of time, but in the end feeling bad about doesn’t get me write more: we’re just humans and working full time we need to relax sometimes. I had 2 weeks off for Christmas and I nearly didn’t write at all at that time, just watching movies, playing video games, etc. But after that I had a nice, fleshed out idea for an epic/dark fantasy, complete with characters, plots, general world-building… I wouldn’t have achieved that if I just sat and tried to write.

  3. J.R.Barker

    Slow and steady wins the race they say 🙂

    1. melfka

      I have the “slow” part, now I need to work harder on “steady”! 😉

        1. melfka

          True! Maybe I should write a post “Learn to walk before you climb” instead. 😀

          1. J.R.Barker

            Or learn to crawl before you can walk? Nah, yours is better.

          2. melfka

            I think crawling would be the last step… I don’t know if you watched “Firefly”: “When you can’t walk, you crawl, and when you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you.” 😉

          3. J.R.Barker

            I didn’t but I shall now. Does laziness count as can’t?

          4. melfka

            Hmmm… Laziness no, but I am sure a lazy person would have enough of excuses validating the “can’t” part. Unless they are too lazy to come up with some ;).
            By the way: “Firefly” is very funny, but someone who is not a sci-fi/fantasy fan (there’s not much science in the show, so no fear 🙂 ) it might not be that appealing.

          5. J.R.Barker

            There is that 🙂
            I am definitely a sci-fi/ fantasy fan!

          6. melfka

            Then you definitely need to watch it! I don’t think I know any sci-fi/fantasy fan who watched it and didn’t like it (and it’s not because they stop being my friends or anything 😉 ).

          7. J.R.Barker

            lol, I’ll let you know what I think 🙂

  4. Connie B. Dowell

    Indeed! Progress is progress. Knowing your own pace and honoring it will help you feel better about your own writing and set realistic deadlines. Great post!

    1. melfka

      Thank you! I wrote it also fr myself as it is so easy to forget any words written are actually progress.

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