Writing is a lot like hiking. The first time you go down a trail, you stop and investigate the different aspects of nature that call to you. A glittering rock, a crooked tree, a gentle stream, and which each new feature you stop and gaze at its unique beauty.
The further you go, the more you realize that you are going beyond what is familiar or even perhaps comfortable in your mind. If you’re experiencing something sensitive to you, you might feel a bit uncomfortable with these unknown surroundings in this forest, but you continue because you are anxious to see what is around the next corner.
When you stop to breath, you stare at the steep mountain in your way and consider turning back because the journey looks daunting. Some hikers keep going with the desire to appreciate the glimmering lake at the end of the trail. But some turn back short of making the full journey, realizing it’s either too difficult or not what they expected.
Lots of writers take some time to reflect on their “hiking” experience and decide to take it again. As they go down that trail again, they search out the rocks, trees and other landmarks they treasured the first time. Sometimes they find that rock and gaze on its glory on and remember why it was so beautiful the first time. Perhaps they find it more intriguing than this time. Sometimes they can’t find that rock at all and realize that it wasn’t worth seeking out again. Sometimes it’s been removed and they are forced to move on without experiencing it again.
Some writers keep going, wanting to reach that lake either for the first time or to glimpse the glory of seeing it again.
The more that writer goes down that trail, the more that writer discovers something about themselves. That glittering rock represents the hard places in their lives that hurt or that provided the cornerstone for them to keep going. Now they see the crooked tree and recognize the remnants of a broken heart or the emotional bypass that saved their lives.
Every step becomes a milestone in a journey that can’t be forgotten. The gentle stream was the lifeline that kept them calm during the rough terrain of life. The mountain that looked so high the first time wasn’t as hard to climb the second time or the fortieth time.
Every time you take that trail, you become more and more familiar and it becomes easier. That stone you stubbed your foot on before is no problem now.
The lake at the end of the trail signifies something different each time as well. The first time you arrive, you gaze at the beauty of the shimmering lake in awe that you got there. You sit and relish in the moment, taking in as much of the spoils of the hard work it took to get there.
The second time you get to the lake, you want to experience more than your first trip. You take the time to explore the exploding nature around the lake, taking in a more intricate beauty and therefore discovering something different than you saw before. But it is clear that you will return to the lake again. Why? Because your writing has taken on a new meaning.
Finally and definitely you arrive at a place in authentic writing where you must decide if you have the determination or the will to finish the hike. Every writer has to determine is the following: is it the treasure of the lake you desire or is it the journey you seek?
While I have been speaking about writers, it occurs to me I have many friends right now going through difficult times. Some struggle with their writing craft, some with their appearance, some with self worth, some with housing, some with tough teens, and some with the loss of someone dear to them.
This hike is a journey. Or maybe I should say, this journey is a hike!
But we are never alone. I’ve always loved the “Footprints” story that you see on cards and bookmarks. (Jesus is ALWAYS the answer and he always accompanies us whether we recognize it or not.) But I think the background pictures on these cards always stink. I have YET to meet the person whose life has been a walk on a beach, but I know plenty of people who’ve “hiked it out.”
And honestly, that is what I wish for you. There is little to be learned from an easy walk, but there is an eternity to be gained from a journey in which you discover your innermost talents, dreams and failings. That trail yields a never-ending reward.
Post Script: A very dear friend of mine, Robbie Iobst has penned a book entitled, Joy Dance: 52 Joy-votions That Free Your Heart to Growin Jesus, which I highly recommend. Dancing can be as much fun as hiking.