Last week my grandmother phoned me and asked if I would like to go and climb the highest peak on the Island just off our coast. Since we have been trying to go there for the past two years, I jumped at the opportunity. I was delighted to find out that my cousins would be joining us for the journey.
So early on Sunday morning we set off for our family adventure. Kapiti Island, off the coast of where I live, is a wildlife sanctuary for native birds and bush. It has a lot of history linked to it – much to do with settler trading, whaling, and Maori leaders, and it also has a great spiritual association for many New Zealanders.
It stands majestically, rising out of the sea, often with misty cloud surrounding it. There is nothing quite like standing on our beach, looking out at it. In fact, there have been times when I have driven the car down to the beach, parked up, and opened my laptop to write.
But despite the fact that I can write on the beach while overlooking the island… while I was there, I did not feel the inspiration to write. I’m sure that it would probably inspire other people to write there. I can imagine that there are oodles of poetry out there about the island.
My focus wasn’t on writing (like it usually is), but entirely on getting my backside up the mountain. It was the challenge that I was mentally prepared to take on. Not only that, but my 82-year-old and legally blind grandmother wanted to get up there as well. It was the drive and passion of my grandmother that got me thinking about writing. Here is a woman who raised a her siblings in the guts of war and the depression, married, took on the raising of her husband’s split family, had more of her own children, and now has a lot to do with all of her grandchildren’s raising and education. A busy woman all of her life, yet she still makes the time to walk and hike some of the hardest trails in New Zealand. In the past when I have asked her about how she has managed to do it, she has turned to me and said, “Oh, you know, one walk at a time.”
This is the same for a writer’s journey. One word at a time. One story at a time. One book at a time. It’s a bit like climbing a mountain with each novel written. At the start, it’s all uphill and hard work. I would say that the ascent would take approximately two thirds of the book to write, and on the way you have met many different characters. Then you are at the peak, and your writer’s spirit is peaking. You know that as you look down, you know how far you have come. And there is only one way back, and that’s downhill. This is your home straight – even if the pathway isn’t actually that straight.
You have done all of the hard work getting up there, and now you deserve to reward yourself with the satisfying walk back down. Looking at those points and pathways that you have already covered… tying everything together, and trying not to trip over any rocks and tree-roots that are constant obstacles to navigate. And then once you get back down to ground level, you look back at that great achievement.
You know how hard the journey was, but you have accomplished it. Yes, you are a bit battered and bruised. Muscles that you never knew you had, are kindly letting you know that you have worked your backside off. Climbing a mountain is like writing a novel.
It has its peaks, troughs, and challenges. But one step at a time is equal to one word. And you can only move onwards and upwards. Keep climbing, keep writing, keep dreaming.