A few months ago, I was walking my dog, Kel, the biggest labradoodle on the planet, up the hill in my neighborhood. And I made a VERY big mistake. I looked up. Not just a little. I gazed as far as I could to the tippy top of the hill. Now you need to know I live in Northern California in the foothills of the Vaca Mountain range. What does that mean? It means that it’s an extremely steep incline to the top of the hill and when I lifted my chin all I could see was the steepness and the struggle. I didn’t see anything else.
My hands grew clammy. My heart wobbled. My legs refused to budge another step. It appeared as if were at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and I was facing a sheer cliff of anxiety. My fears were exacerbated by the fact that I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before. Plus, evil fingers of mist blew in from the bay and my skin got all goose pimpled. I literally stopped in my tracks, frozen as much the deer that eats the sweet bunchgrass in my front yard.
Then I told myself. Hey, wait a minute, Hillary, don’t look up at the top instead keep your eyes right in front of you, just go one step at a time. So I lowered my gaze and I studied the pavement and pretended it was fascinating. I took one step and then another and, then suddenly, I wasn’t thinking about how I can’t do this crazy hill because it’s too steep and I’m just too tired. Instead, I was thinking, wow the air is not actually too cold or too warm and listen to that birds singing. Look, there’s a Blue Jay hopping along the base of the driveway. And look, how the shadow plays on the road, creating stripes on the pavement in front of me and how that rock glistens in the sunlight.
Then guess what? Before I knew it, I was at the top of the hill. And it’s all because I remembered to appreciate all the steps of the journey.
When we write, we need to do the same thing. If we look at an already created books, which have been through hundreds of drafts with the help of writing groups, agents and editors, and we can compare it to our own work, it’s daunting. In fact, at times, it might seem impossible. We feel as if we are not good enough, unworthy or perhaps that it’s just too much work. And not just books. This applies to almost everything. At the same time, I’m not saying don’t ever look at the tops of things. But just that if you focus only on the finish, the final goal, it’s daunting. So during these times, just remember to breath, and appreciate that bird who hopped down (maybe from the peak of the mountain) to come say hello.
Hillary Homzie is the author of the Ellie May chapter book series (Charlesbridge, 2018), Apple Pie Promises (Sky Pony/Swirl, 2018), Pumpkin Spice Secrets (Sky Pony/Swirl, 2017), Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009) as well as the Alien Clones From Outer Space (Simon & Schuster Aladdin 2002) chapter book series. She’s also a contributor to the Kate the Chemist middle grade series (Philomel Books/Penguin Random House). During the year, Hillary teaches at Sonoma State University and in the summer she teaches in the graduate program in childrens’ literature, writing and illustration at Hollins University. She also is an instructor for the Children’s Book Academy. She can be found at hillaryhomzie.com and on her Facebook page as well as on Twitter.