Several Peaks And Words Later, Why I Find Writing Is Harder Than Climbing Mountains

Several Peaks And Words Later, Why I Find Writing Is Harder Than Climbing Mountains

But not if you can define your own Mt. Everest.

The excitement of conquering an unclimbed peak is unmatched. It’s a thrilling adventure filled with risks and challenges.

But mountain climbing relentlessly tests your physical and mental limits, pushing you to the very edge of your capabilities.

In stark contrast, writing appears as a deceptively simple art of putting words into coherent sentences.

A million ideas pop up in our brains every day. All we need to do is pick one and string those words together. How difficult can that be?

I’ve scaled numerous mountains and written over a million words.

There are surprising parallels that I’ve discovered between these two professions.

And one significant difference.

Writing may be harder than climbing mountains, after all.

What do these two disparate worlds have in common?

A. The difficulty:

Attempting to climb peaks challenges your physical and mental limits. As a climber, I have tackled routes that seem insurmountable, using minimal equipment to navigate treacherous terrain.

That’s not too different from my writer’s journey, where I have navigated heaps of information to chart a clear outline and create a coherent article from the noise. I have only my notes, memory and references as tools.

There remain areas of darkness where writers fear to tread, topics they avoid tackling or subjects they can’t seem to touch.

Yet, at some point, we must swallow the pill and set foot on the unstable terrain. We will slip, slide or suffer, but they must place the next foot in front and continue.

B. The commitment:

Both pursuits demand unwavering dedication, commitment, and the ability to persevere when there’s no one else to push but yourself.

It is easy to give up. I have let my mind win.

But as a climber and as a writer, I must roam the mountainous and my mental wildernesses if I want to progress.

C. The training:

Climbers train their bodies and minds for months, if not years, to tackle the world’s most challenging peaks. Our training isn’t merely about ascending mountains; it’s a process of acquiring skills along the way.

Similarly, writers practice their craft, researching ideas and presenting them in a hundred different ways. Rinsing and repeating our words.

Writers have to dig in for the long haul to be a better version of themselves. Before temporarily resting my pen, I must wade through a quagmire of information to arrive on a stable surface.

D. The attitude:

Climbers need to be mentally tough and resilient in the face of adversity, as do writers. Abandoning an idea is as painful to me as a writer as turning back before a summit feels to me as a climber. Both torment me for weeks.

Writing, like mountaineering, can be a lonely and unpredictable path.

If I want the prize, I cannot stray from the path of keeping my faith.

What makes it all worth the effort?

Keeping a learning mindset and seeking support when required can make the whole effort incredibly rewarding for both climbers and writers.

The satisfaction of hitting publish and unfurling a flag on the summit is equal no matter what altitude you are sitting at.

Each action is a culmination of months of training, failing and getting up to train again.

Learning is the reward. Climbing and writing help us grow, and every article and trek is a life lesson that we can add to our arsenal.

What makes writing harder?

The remote peaks of Pakistan, Bhutan, Tibet, inner Russia and Antarctica have been off the charts to climbers for decades. Some summits were captive to geopolitics, and others were neglected because they were not difficult enough.

The summits that were alluring enough to climbing expeditions repeatedly failed because climbers could not overcome the remoteness and difficulty of access that these peaks presented.

All it took was one determined individual to make the first ascent for the rest to follow the route to the top.

While the climb itself remained challenging, the path was now laid. Every person who climbed made it easier for the one that followed.

This is where writing veers off on a different path from mountain climbing as a skill.

There are no uncharted peaks waiting for writers. They are not already ‘there’, waiting to be climbed.

It’s the familiar peaks that they need to mount. With one caveat — no one except the writer knows the path to the top.

Every writer needs to define their ‘Mt Everest’ — their ultimate goal, the hardships they can take and the final altitude they are willing to climb to.

But my summit will be distinct from yours.

No peak is the same

When every writer’s Mt. Everest is different, the summit becomes a moving target, making each ascent a unique challenge.

As a writer, I must find the route to the top of her “Mt Everest” without the benefit of guides. Because only I know the route, only I can climb it, and no one else.

Mentors can only take me up to the base camp. They cannot be my Sherpas to lead the way to the summit.

Beyond the base camp is the great unknown, where my writing skill is truly tested. I have only my training and meagre tools to rely on.

There is no advance team fixing the climbing ropes, laying the ladders or marking the way. I must scale the summit all alone and create the route as I ascend. One article, one post, one story at a time.

Imagine being dropped off at a base camp with no map, several peaks in sight, an uncharted route, and unknown crevices along the way.

Which is the way to my “Mt Everest”? What is my “Mt Everest” even?

These questions add to my writing challenges and make the route to my destination hazy.

A. Train and practice

I must practice patience and bid my time using the tools I have been taught to play with. The summit window will open up only when it is time.

Meanwhile, I must consistently train my mind to create a map and practice juggling my words. This is the time to make mistakes and learn.

Higher up in the climb, those mistakes can be confidence-shattering.

With every abandoned piece of writing, the gap between the base and the peak widens. I must wait, pen in hand, to confidently lead myself when the sun shines at last.

B. It never ends

At last, after an arduous and patient journey, when I arrive at the summit, a new one appears immediately behind it.

Taller, harder, but tantalizingly within reach. Tempted, I embark on a new writing journey and attempt to define a new Mt. Everest. And the cycle begins once more.

Writing is not a finite realm like climbing is. Earthly summits will remain where they are, unclimbed or not.

But writing transcends the physical and reaches into the realm of creativity, where the summit is ever-shifting, waiting to be conquered anew.

The mountain climber has an easier task than the wordsmith.

As a person who spends more time than is considered sane in the mountains, writing will remain my greatest adventure.

The final frontier. The last remaining wilderness.

When my time as a mountain climber comes to an end, I can still chase newer “Mt Everests” as a writer.

Everything I have trained for prepares me for the peaks — literal and physical.

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