150 years ago this year England’s Edward Whymper became the first man to climb the Matterhorn. I’m not sure if he did it in tweeds; I’d like to think so though. He did not do it “because it’s there”, that was said by mountaineer George Mallory, of the ill-fated Everest attempt some years later, however Edward Whymper, I’m sure, would have agreed with George.
And now I’m going to make what could be a really, really forced and credibility stretching analogy – because writing a book is very much like climbing a mountain.
It is, honest!
It’s not because it’s very high, or cold or you put your life at risk when doing it. It’s not because there are great views, or camaraderie or poor rations. It’s all about that “because it’s there” business. You see, long before the book is actually achieved, you get the initial idea; you know the book is there, you just have to scale it. You have to get the whole damn thing down on paper from the vast, only vaguely defined structure, which exists in your mind – and no one else’s.
So each day (or whenever you can) you put on your literary crampons, take out your simile ice-pick and test your descriptive ropes to try once again to get closer to that elusive summit.
Of course, often you have to go back and try another route, a different ascent, and still be faced later with the danger of editorial crevasses and ravines that have to be crossed to reach your goal.
And one day, finally, after weeks, months, or even years of effort – finally you make it. You reach the peak, not with a bang, but with a Whymper. See, it is just like climbing a mountain* – sort of.
*And when you’ve reached the top, please keep all your clothes on.