In another life, I used to do a bit of rock climbing, usually at the local climbing gym (Class 5 in San Rafael, at the time). My husband, who was then my boyfriend, got me into it, and nothing short of new love could have kept me going. When I started out, I gripped the holds too hard. I didn’t have the right callouses, and my palms burned. My forearms shook. My fingernails were too long and scraped against the synthetic wall. I didn’t entirely trust the knots my husband carefully taught me.
While I trembled, determined but terrified, on my dinky little 5.5 route with the giant holds, the more experienced climbers would be zooming along past me, taking (what seemed at the time) wild risks, grabbing crimpy holds not even as wide as their finger pads. Climbing beneath overhangs. Bracing against the corner wall with their other foot to reach an impossibly high hold.
Every time I’d start a tough route, my husband and our climbing buddy, Lauren, would say, “Get there.” It sounded like they had complete faith that I could do the climb.
I was terrified but determined—and inspired. I kept going back to the gym. Using my precious tips and wages from waiting tables, I signed up for a membership. I bought my own harness and climbing shoes. I got into bouldering and bought special shoes for that—the kind you have to painfully squeeze your toes into. I bought a chalk bag—not because I liked using the chalk so much, but I thought the bag was cute. I kept practicing, and I got better—although I’d still feel as if chalk dust from the more experienced climbers was sprinkling onto my face.
Over the past few years, writing has been like climbing. Terrifying. Inspirational. Challenging. Fun. Sometimes I stick a tough revision move and feel a rush of triumph. Or I finally put a project in the drawer and experience that whoosh of failure through my gut. Sometimes I can’t help but look around at all the more talented writers doing their more talented things.
But do you know what I hear them saying, every time I stop to listen?
|Getting There, roughly 12 years ago|