Sunday, June 19, 2011


One of the things I hate about writing (okay, maybe dislike is a more accurate word) is the number of drafts and edits it takes to come up with something that resembles a coherent and thoughtful piece of work. Another discouraging factor is the amount of time I spend spinning my mental wheels before I come up with an idea that is worth writing about. Hamster time is that period when I go 'round and 'round, trying a thousand different stories in my head, sifting through endless scenarios and possible themes before one of them actually appears feasible as well as interesting. It seems like time wasted, but it is, for the most part, the necessary process to arrive at the one idea that works.

This weekend, I have been working on a writing project. I had some inspiration on Friday night while I was talking about it with some of my friends, and I thought it would be a simple thing to put a few lines on paper. I did put some words on paper on Saturday, but after a page of scribbling, I realized that it was not going where it needed to go. And I seemed to have lost the spark of inspiration I had the night before. Argh! Tonight, I gave it another go. I took a different approach and came up with another page of phrases. But they, too, were lifeless. Not what I wanted at all.

I hate this part of writing. It is so demotivating, this part where I fail 2 or 3 or even 5 times before I get on the right track. But there is no shortcut. Aside from the rare occasion, I need this failing, de-cluttering process. These fails are the weeds that I need to cut down in order to see the flowers clearly. Yes, today I wish I could skip right to the beautiful, precise prose I want to write instead of wading through the swamp of fails, but the fails are part of the cost of good writing (of which this is not really a good example if you consider the mixed metaphors).

This morning, our faith community went on a mini pilgrimage together. Our goal was to trek to the lookout at the top of Mont-Royal. We took 1.5 hours to get there, and along the way we laughed, prayed, stopped and marveled, talked about life's challenges, walked in silent contemplation, listened, and journeyed together. By the time we reached our destination, we were already rich with what had transpired along the way. Pilgrimage, like writing, is a complete package. Path and destination cannot be separated from each other. Stairs must be climbed, winding roads plodded along, switchbacks made at times, steps retraced when necessary. Sometimes we have to wait. Sometimes we find ourselves hurrying. At all times we try to accommodate and help our fellow travelers. And in the process, we get closer to where we are going.

Right now, I am two fails closer to a good piece of writing. Time to try again.

This is a busy squirrel we saw on the trek up Mont-Royal.

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