Eyes on the Prize

When I first started mountain biking, a friend of mine went out with me to help me learn the basics. The most important piece of advice he gave me was simple: “Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go.” Easy enough, right? With every swoop and turn, I felt a little more confident. I rode over ledges (a whopping four inches tall) that I wouldn’t have thought I could ride. I was feeling pretty damn good. (We’ll ignore the fact that the trail we were on was equivalent to a two-lane highway as far as mountain bikes are concerned.) We were almost to the end of the trail, and I was really getting in the groove. We came to a spot in the trail that dropped down into a creek bed before climbing up the other side. My friend went first, telling me he’d wait at the top.

I dropped into the wash. And then I saw it. A big rock on the side of the trail. It shouldn’t have been a problem. It was well out of the middle of the trail. But I couldn’t stop staring at it. “That’s a big rock,” I thought. “I don’t want to hit that.” Next thing I knew . . . BAM! I’d hit the rock and crashed in the bottom of the ravine. Luckily the crash was relatively minor, and I had to laugh. If I had kept my eyes on the trail, I probably would have been fine.

While riding my bike today, I realized that this advice applies to more than just mountain biking. Last month, I submitted my work into a pitch contest. The results came out last night, and suffice to say, I didn’t make the cut. Am I disappointed? Definitely. The people involved in the contest all seem awesome, and I would have loved a chance to work with them more closely. But at the same time, I can’t keep staring at the rejection like I stared at that rock.

If you get on a mountain bike, you’re bound to crash. If you decide to put your work out there, rejection is bound to happen. And like crashes, rejection can hurt. But you can’t concentrate on the obstacle, because you’ll never make it where you’re going if you do. Keep your eye on your end goal, whether it be in school, in writing, or just life in general. And whatever you do, keep an eye out for that rock!!!

Victory!

I did it. I have won the epic battle. It’s taken me seven years, more hours than I am willing to admit, and literal blood sweat and tears, but I finally accomplished a feat I once thought was impossible. A feat that an estimated less than one percent of the US population can lay claim to. I have slaved. I have toiled. And I have triumphed. I am unicyclist. Hear me roar.

Wait! You’re probably asking yourself if you read that right. Well, you did. I can finally say, without an ounce of trepidation, that I can ride a unicycle. Now to some of you, that may not be as exciting as say . . . getting a publishing contract. And maybe it’s not. But there is a lesson to be learned, and it’s all about perseverance.

I started falling off the unicycle around seven years ago when my husband got it into his head that he was going to learn to ride one. (I’m still not entirely sure of the thought process there.) He ordered one, and promptly left a grey streak of rubber across the living room carpet as he wobbled his way through our house (because naturally he decided to learn this skill in the winter.) It wasn’t long before we were making excursions to the park. He was riding further and further every day. It wasn’t long before he decided that he wanted me to learn with him.

So I indulged him. I grabbed a stepladder and started falling off the unicycle. Repeatedly. Again. And again. And again. And eventually I started to make some progress. But before long, life got in the way. Or I lost motivation. Either way, I quit trying.

That became a constant cycle over the next seven years. I would decide I wanted to try again. I’d work at it for an hour. I would make progress. Then it would get put away, and I wouldn’t try again for another six months. Or a year.

This year, the Moab Munifest (mountain unicycle festival) returned to Moab after a five year hiatus. My husband was thrilled and eagerly signed up to go ride some trails. I took their return as a sign that I finally needed to get my ass in the saddle (literally) and make it happen. So I did. I spent night after night outside, falling off the unicycle. Making progress and falling off again. And you know what? All that hard work paid off. I’m not a great rider. I still fall off more times than I don’t. And I can’t ride more than a couple hundred yards before my legs get tired, and I need a break. But I can ride a unicycle dammit! And that’s more than a lot of people can say.

Now what does this have to do with writing? You probably already figured it out, but I’m going to indulge myself and spell it out for you anyway. When you’re a writer, you’re going to fall. A lot. And there are going to be times where you’re going to walk away from it all because you’re tired of it. That’s okay. If you need a break, take it. But keep coming back. Keep fighting. When you fall off, dust yourself off and climb back on. You may not get it this time. Hell, you may not get it the next sixty-two times. But if you keep trying, eventually you will make it. 

Or you can give up writing, and learn to ride a unicycle with me.