IVP - Addenda & Errata - Move by Move

April 8, 2009

Move by Move

I’ve done a good bit of mountain climbing in my lifetime, though I’ve pretty much retired from it now. Climbers learn that sometimes a particular mountain or climbing route, which when viewed from afar or as a whole can look impossibly difficult, yields its access to those who study it more closely. The ridge is too steep and sharp. The face is too sheer and smooth. But with maps, photos, route descriptions and study, it begins to look doable. And then, once close to the mountain or on the route, the climb breaks down into feasible pitches (roughly speaking, sections measured by rope lengths) and, ultimately, manageable moves. It’s amazing what progress can be made—and paralyses avoided—by focusing on just the next move or two and not the whole climb at once.

A fellow climber once admitted to me that, though he absolutely loved the mountains, he was, quite frankly, afraid of heights—and particularly when there were long expanses of empty space beneath his heels as he was rock climbing. This is not as rare among climbers as you might think. He shared with me his strategy for overcoming his fear. While climbing he tried to restrict his view and concentration to about a ten-foot “box” around himself. It worked for him. I tried it once or twice when I got into a difficult climbing spot, and it worked for me too.

I find this strategy of not concentrating on the whole thing at once to be a helpful way of moving forward in writing or editing projects too. There’s climber’s block and there’s writer’s or editor’s block. Sure, to begin with you need to know what you’re getting into and lay out a sensible route and plan.

But once that’s done, what’s the next move that needs to be made, the next thing that needs to be written? Do it. Maybe it’s just the introduction to a chapter. Or a paragraph. Now, what’s next? Do that. Maybe you just commit an hour or half hour every other day to writing, making whatever progress the time allows. With each step or move, progress is made, confidence grows and—in climber’s parlance—“commitment” to the route increases. That is, you’ll eventually find yourself too far into it to back out without humiliating yourself. You’ve got to go for the top. And that brings its own motivation!

Of course, sometimes a climbing route can look straightforward and turn out to be anything but! It’s either bail (quit) or bounce (fall). Well, that’s an analogy for another writer’s dilemma and another post. It’s also material for the best climbing—and writing—stories!

Posted by Dan Reid at April 8, 2009 3:00 PM Bookmark and Share

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