Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to complete one of the goals I set for myself for this year: to hike the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. It was something I had been thinking about doing for a while, but finally decided the time would never be quite right, so I might as well do it now. Besides crossing another goal off my list, I also learned something from my experience. What I re-learned was that most times, the way we look at what happens to us is more important than what actually happens to us.
I know, that sounds deep and philosophical. It sounds like another motivational story where the teller (that would be me) tries to impart some kind of life lesson on the reader (that would be you). Let’s not suffer through that. I’d like to apply what I learned to the process of writing. Grander applications can be left to those who want to make them. I’m going to keep it light.
Let me give you some background. We can all agree that the Grand Canyon is huge. Hiking it from rim to rim can generally be done either from north to south or from south to north. I chose the latter. Traveling down the South Kaibab trail from the South Rim, it’s nearly seven miles to the Colorado River at the bottom, with more than four thousand feet of elevation loss. The hike up the North Rim is more than fourteen miles, with an elevation gain of 5700 feet. Altogether, it’s a hike of over twenty-two miles.
Not surprisingly, I got tired on the hike.
The trail is fantastic and there are adequate opportunities to refill water containers, but it is a long hike. The last four miles or so were an experience in torture and longevity for me, mainly because I never condition adequately for these things. I found myself trying to convince the part of me that just wanted to lie down to keep going, to make it to the top.
I chanted to myself, “One step after another. Keep going. Every step is a victory.” It worked. I was slow for those last few miles. I hurt. I wanted to stop and take a nap, for maybe a day or a week. But I continued and finished the hike.
As I drove home after the hike, I thought a lot about my little mantra. It was true on the hike that every step was another victory, every time I put my foot forward it was closer to the major victory of finishing the hike. Each time I resisted the urge to stop, I won a tiny battle. I thought about how true it is that all the little wins are really what’s important, whether hiking or doing something else.
It applies well to writing. Often, in the writing process, there are sticking points. There are times when we are so tired, so overwhelmed, so sick of editing or structuring or any one of a number of other things, that we want to quit. Just one more word or sentence, paragraph or page, and we have taken another step. We have declared another small victory.
Will this new—although it’s really not new so much as something familiar viewed from another angle—idea help me in my writing, in life? I’m sure it will. The lesson is real to me, branded into my soul by the pain through which I have come by the experience. It makes me feel a little better when I’m tired, beaten down, or just plain want to quit.
The physical experience of the hike was hard, but the exhilaration of finishing and looking back over the canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world, that I had crossed, is indescribable and priceless. It was very nearly the same type of feeling when I hold in my hand a new book I have just published. In my opinion, we can all use a few more of those types of victories. What do you think?