One of my favorite stories as a little kid was The Little Engine That Could. I was not very big for my age, nor fast, agile or tough. But I was persistent. If something interested me, I’d drive my parents crazy until we went to the library so I could read up on the subject. I was probably the foremost 6-year-old expert on Jacques Cousteau. Yeah, I was weird like that. Still am, to some extent, but most writers love research, so I know I’m not alone.
What drew me to the Little Engine was the fact that he wasn’t the biggest or the fastest but, even when he got teased, he stayed on course despite the perceived adversity. In the end, what did he do? He pulled those carts up the mountain when no one else could.
Writing, as a journey, is a lot like the Little Engine’s trip up the mountain. It’s hard work. Brain strain, writer’s cramp, writer’s block, piles of unwashed laundry, deleted words, blunt critique–all of it comes with the territory. Add in everyday concerns like paying the bills, taking care of your home and being there for your family, and it’s tough to keep going sometimes. That mountain looks like Everest from the bottom and seems to grow even as you climb. Two steps forward, one step back.
That’s where the Little Engine’s mentality has to kick in, except I’d take it a step further. Not “I think I can,” but “I know I can, and I will!” Expect failure, and that’s what you’ll get. So why not expect to succeed? Tell yourself, “It’s hard, it’s killing my mind, it hurts my heart, but when I’m finished, by God, it’ll be AWESOME!”
Take it in small pieces. Think of that mountain as a series of short hills. Climb a bit, then rest. Set your climbing pins. Tie in. Then get ready to climb the next part. In the end, you’ll look back at your finished “mountain” and I say, “I did that!”
And it’s AWESOME!