While driving, I often think of writing-related matters. For some reason last week, I thought of how climbing a tree -- or even the tree itself -- is like writing a book. In the winter trees are bare, branches sticking out like spindly arms without any leaves to clothe them. But I reasoned, are these limbs like the structure we hang our stories on?
But how is writing a novel like climbing a tree -- or the tree itself? Well, a tree grows, as we all know. From a sapling, it starts out fresh and green. As the tree matures, it becomes stronger. Once the tree has developed enough stability to withstand our weight, we can begin the upward climb. Many people don’t make it past the first few limbs, or even the first one, and give up in defeat. For those who persevere, the first few branches might not seem to be that high from the ground. We can climb these sturdy limbs with minimal effort.
But once we go higher, our comfort level drops, and the branches become more delicate. We have to constantly watch for missteps, testing each limb to see if it will hold the weight of our story ideas. One branch may look perfect, but once we’re on it, we can see it’s not the place for us. The limb may be too shaky, or not close enough to other branches to allow easy movement. So we search out another branch that will take us toward our goal--of climbing the tree to the top and back down. Along the way, we have to jump from limb to limb as our plot-points change, sometimes going up a branch, sometimes down two.
Depending on the person and story involved, climbing can be very easy or extremely hard. And just like a cat that gets stuck in the top branches, we can shoot to the top on an idea, only to realize there’s no way to get back down.
Plot twists, conflict, characters -- they can all lead us astray, leaving us stranded in the tree we’ve built for our story. Sometimes, we can gingerly retrace our steps down. Other times, we need to be recused -- whether by a critique partner or by time and objectivity. But with enough patience, we will make it to the top and back down -- in one piece.
Writing is all about the journey. From the inciting incident at the bottom to the conflict at the top, and then back down again. Apparently writing is like a tree -- and climbing that said tree -- to me. What is writing to you?