Sunday, February 6, 2011

Don't think about the mountain

I live on the edge of the English Lake District, a National Park famed for its mountains. We've got the highest peak in England, Scafell Pike, which, at 3,210 feet isn't THAT high in the world stakes of mountains, but it's big enough for us.

I've done Scafell Pike with Dad, who's the reason both my brother and I are into fell walking (and Mum's the reason I'm into landscapes, but that's another story), and on that occasion, as on many others up mountains at home and abroad, I had to take it one step at a time.

Actually, most of the time I take mountains twenty steps at a time.
No matter how much my legs are aching, or how unfit I've managed to let myself get, I can usually manage twenty steps. Don't worry about what happens after that, I can manage the next twenty steps. And then, when I've made those twenty, and I'm stopping to catch my breath, and waiting for the spots before my eyes to disappear, I can usually manage another twenty.

Thinking about the walk ahead, all the way up past Great End, and on to Esk Hause, then up Scafell and that soul-destroying descent into Little Narrowcove before the last haul up the Pike itself, would probably make me give up then and there! I can't possibly do that much, that far, that high.

But I can do twenty steps.

And then I can probably do another twenty.

The current work-in-progress is feeling a bit like a mountain. It's over 100,000 words long already, and, I estimate, only 80% finished. It's in pieces, irrational, out of order... and fixing it seems an impossible task.

But I can do twenty steps. Some days that's twenty lines, some days it twenty pages. But I'm still climbing.

What big job do you have in hand, that you like to break down into twenty steps or so?

Don't forget to pop back on Thursday for Christina's post!


  1. hah, this is the same way a project manager looks at a project. We call it eating the elephant.
    How do you do that? One bite at a time. :)

  2. I dont think I'm quite as ambitious as 20 steps...maybe ten. However I do rely on the your 20 minute rule :-)

    I'm just winding up a major rewrite and ast times it did seems insurmountable but I broke it down into different issues so it didn't feel overwhelming....

    Now to pick up the threads of an unfinished going to try it in 20 minute blasts and hope to tap into the subconscious flow.

    Good luck with the last 20%.

  3. I'm working on revising a manuscript too at the moment, but at the same time I have what seems like a million other things to do. I've had to make a 'to do' list and my 20 steps = ticking off at least one thing on that list every day with a bit of time spent on the revision as well. I have to say some days that does feel like a humongous mountain!
    (Lovely photos, Anna! Makes me want to go to the Lake District)

  4. Thanks Liz - and good luck with yours, too! The twenty minute rule is a good 'un, isn't it? :-)

    I find it very hard to concentrate on the twenty steps when I can't stop thinking of the million other things I have to do, Christina! It IS a humongous mountain. But we can still climb it. Isn't that fabulous?!

    The first picture is looking up the slate steps alongside Rigghead Quarries on the way up to Dalehead Tarn and High Spy. The second picture is what I thought was a winter view of Skiddaw, but now I'm looking again and I'm not so sure.... !

    Lovely, aren't they? :-)

  5. Anna - this is a post I NEEDED to read. I have been looking at my revisions as a huge mountain when I should have been looking at it as a series of twenty steps. Why I understand this in the day job and not in the writing I just don't know!

    Oh and what beautiful photos of God's Own County :)

  6. Eh, we regularly reminders, I find, Biddy! Liz mentioned the twenty minute rule on (I think) Julie's blog recently, and I went, "oooh yeaaaaah?" in a dawning comprehension kind of way.... *g* Glad it was a useful prod.