My husband and I spend much of our time on weekends hiking. When we were hiking recently, I was struck at how hiking is like writing. Here are some of my observations.
You start out with an idea—when you are thinking about hiking, you know you want to have a new experience. So you choose to go on a hike to explore. You pick a hiking location—that’s like picking your writing topic. You may have chosen the hiking location based on features you want to see, like a waterfall, majestic mountain or cave. Similarly, you pick your writing topic to further explore nuances of a situation or to develop your own perspective on an issue. You may do research, pull together ideas from your experience, or create connections from thoughts swirling in your mind.
You have done some planning—like selecting your outfit for a hike, proper shoes, rain gear, a hiking stick, or for me, in summer, a cool cap (a bandana that is especially made to keep you cool). In writing, you may have created a mind map, outline, or just bulleted what you might write about.
Sometimes, however, you don’t plan—spontenaity finds you. When you are driving en route to an adventure, you may see a sign that compels you to stop and take a look at something else. Sometimes the surprises and delights that are unplanned make the most amazing memories.
This spontaneity also happens when you write—and sometimes with great success. One of the most read blog posts I have ever written came out spontaneously in about 20 minutes with no planning. I had just been praying about the turmoil in the world and the words from my heart gushed out in Write Notes to Those You Love. And Send Them.
Or, your planning process forgets a key component. In my case, on our hiking adventures one weekend, I didn’t bring a swimsuit—and I ended up drenched from head to toe in all my gear. Why? Because I couldn’t pass up exploring close to a waterfall and fully experiencing it just because of a challenge or shortcoming. It made it more difficult to hike out, and because I was wet for so long today I am a bit under the weather, but the exhilaration of letting the water drip on me and me looking up at the highest waterfall West of the Rockies was well worth it. (You can read more about this adventure on my husband’s blog, Hiking With Your Honey.)
In the writing realm, don’t prevent the text from flowing just because it wasn’t planned or you weren’t prepared to go there. Sure, you might end up cutting it. Sometimes, however, what flows will shape an entire piece—and change your title. If you do end up editing out of your current piece, it isn’t wasted. Just save it in another document and finish that piece of writing at another time.
Regardless of how much you plan, you never know what’s going to happen until you start—and continue. You don’t know what you are going to see until you step on the trail. As you wind around a wooded trail, you can sometimes only see a few feet in front of you. Every turn and step yields a new view. Similarly, in writing, you don’t know where your text might take you. Some of the ideas that you think are important may turn out to be less important, and some of the ones that you thought were supporting ideas may turn out to be the focus of your piece.
In hiking, you never know what details you will see, nor do you know what a new trail will look like. Many times, the same trails look completely different as the seasons change. Likewise, your writing interests and styles may change.
All of the twists and turns of writing—as in hiking—are all part of an amazing journey. Embrace it!
Are you looking for help along the writing journey? I have upcoming online writing classes that may help you. I’d love to help you with content planning, cowriting, content evaluation, copyediting, promotional writing or other editorial projects. Feel free to contact me!