A Metaphor

Augustus Waters is faultless for many reasons. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) But maybe the best reason of all is his excellent example of a metaphor:

My mind is a tangled web that searches for connections in everything. It's impossible for me to turn off my reader/writer brain. I constantly try to make sense of the world around me, and like Augustus, I think in metaphors.

(For an even more extensive analysis of this brilliant scene, read John Green's Tumblr post here.) 

My family recently spent a week in the picturesque mountains of North Georgia. Our rental house rested at the top of a mountain. (Okay, so it probably was not a REAL mountain, but I'm from the FLAT LANDS of Forney, Texas. Anything with an elevation is considered a mountain in my mind.) In order for Jason and me to get our weekly running/walking miles logged, we had to go down the mountain and then turn around and come back up. The going down was easy. In fact, I broke out into a sprint several times; the decline ignited my legs, propelling me down the mountain without breaking much of sweat. A feeling of smugness started to take hold of me until I realized that the only way back home was UP. As I encountered that incline in the opposite direction, my legs and lungs burned from the pull rather than the push. The trip back up that mountain absolutely SUCKED, and I thought I was going to die. Seriously.

A view on our walk

As many of you know, I am in the throes of writing "The Book." The words are coming--sometimes with the trickle of a rusty faucet--sometimes with the force of a flood--but the words are coming. Finally. Before I started this process, I thought of writing a book in terms of running a marathon or giving birth. Those metaphors might still hold true, but right now, this process reminds me of climbing that Georgia mountain in reverse--down and then back up again.  

It has been a battle to get to this point in my journey. Finding an idea, then digging deep to push myself to begin, and temporarily silencing my evil inner-demons of doubt--I thought these would be the toughest steps of the journey because sometimes finding the motivation to step out and begin is the hardest part. 

Once I got going, it started to get easier. The voices of these characters began whispering their stories, and I found my flow and discovered a rhythm in my writing time. Daily writing became a habit this summer, and my new-found discipline is paying off. I am making my word count goals and keeping track of them through Camp NaNoWriMo.  I have written 34,656 words in a month. I am petrified to lose my flow, to turn off the faucet, so I will keep writing until all of the words fall out. I hope to finish the first draft by the end of the summer (Fingers crossed). 

Now that I've started putting one word after another, I can feel the momentum carrying me down the mountain. I'm flying now. I took the wise advice of a published author acquaintance and am "fast drafting" my way through the summer. This means that I only read the last paragraph (okay, sometimes more) from what I wrote the day before so that I can't go back and get lost in the editing. This technique keeps me moving forward--and picking up speed. Most importantly, I've silenced that nagging inner-editor; I can't hear her anymore with the rush of words whizzing around me. She has shut up. Thank God. It's just me and my story flying down this mountain, propelled by the power of words.

And I'm making progress. I'm about halfway down. I've reached a crucial part of the story. I know how it's all going to end, but I have to get there. I've weaved a tangled web for my characters, so I must unravel it all and deliver them safely to bottom of the mountain. I hope to get us all there in one piece. 

And then I'm done. Goal Achieved. I will have written a novel. 

Nope. Not quite. 

When I get to the bottom, I've got to turn around and head back UP the mountain; I've got to try to get back home. And just like it did in Georgia, It's. Gonna. SUCK. 

I'm starting to realize that revising and editing is going to be the trip back UP the mountain to get back home. Writing all the words is just part of the process; now I will have to make them all good. Remember, I turned off my inner-editor (and believe me, she was hard to shut off) so that I could just fly down the mountain, leaving a trail of words willy-nilly behind me. But here's the problem: I'm going to need her help to get back home; I'm going to have to turn that chick back on because many of those words are horrible. Many of them serve no purpose. It will be our job to pick up every single word, examine it, hold it to the light for meaning, wrestle with it, and decide if it should stay, go, or get replaced. Every. Single. Word. I need her help in doing this, as much as I hate to admit it. 

My trip back up the mountain is going to require me to dig deep. To breathe. To keep moving, slow and steady, and to NOT quit because the temptation will be there. And that Voice of Doubt, which my inner-editor often morphs into, will be STRONG and LOUD. I can hear her now with all her Waste of time, Why, What if, What for, and JUST GIVE UP

Here's the thing that no one told me: Writing the first draft is the easy part. It's the re-writing and editing that I predict might be my undoing. Because the truth is that I can't half-ass this. I can't come all the way down on foot and then call for a car to take me back up.  I have to do this the right way because THIS matters. This book is my baby; this book is my gem, and I must polish it; shine it; make it the BEST that I have to give. 

But I'm getting way ahead of myself, like usual. Slow down, Aim. You've got to finish your trip down first. 

For now, I'm going to enjoy flying down the mountain--the freedom that comes in the sweet release of the words. Oh, it feels so good just to get it all OUT. 

And when I reach the bottom, I will turn around and head back up. 

I will. 

One foot in front of another. One word at a time... 

I do not share all of this as a veiled attempt to get praise. I LOVE the support from my family and friends, and I could NOT be doing this unless my people were behind me, cheering me on. I am chronicling my struggle and being honest about it because I don't want to pretend like any of this is easy--like I just decided to write a book one day, and poof, done. This is one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. I also want to value the struggle as part of the process. When I reach my goal and think of all the times I wanted to quit but DIDN'T, it will make it so much sweeter. 

Most importantly, I am sharing this because we all face mountains in our lives, and they often have to be conquered in the opposite direction. Marriage, motherhood, college, careers--once we get over the initial fear of starting these journeys, we often get going with such momentum, with such passion, with such force--we often run down the mountain with ease. But at some point in our lives we've all got to climb, claw, crawl our way back up the mountain. 

And it can be a long, hard road home. 

I know this journey will be worth it in the end. When this book is written and rewritten and polished and shining, I will stand on top of the mountain and realize how far I've come, how much I learned about myself, how much I had to conquer and face and wrestle with, and it will make the journey worth it. If my book ever sees the light of publication, then that will all be a fantastic surprise. I am not writing this story for the world; I am writing it for me.

Until then, I will enjoy the free fall down my mountain. 

My metaphor for writing. 

My metaphor for life (with Augustus Waters hands).  


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