Do you have a place or space in your life so powerful, so moving, each time you enter it, you come alive?
For me, that place is a hiking trail deep in the forest. And that space is creative writing.
As I enter the trail, the voices in my head silence and I begin to feel fully present in this big world. It puts me in my place as a tiny being in an immense existence.
As I enter the space in between imagination and the written word, I also come alive. And, like the trail, the craft of writing roots me in my rightful place as a mere note in the symphony of my generation.
The Appalachian Trail (also called the AT) is a world-famous trail whose Southern terminus sits here in my home state of Georgia. Maybe you’ve hiked a portion of it somewhere between Georgia and Maine.
In 1948, a guy named Earl Shaffer became the first person to thru-hike the AT from Georgia to Maine. Years later he did it again from Maine to Georgia, becoming the first person to thru-hike the AT in both directions.
Then, in 1998, he thru-hiked the AT on the 50thanniversary of his original, record-setting hike. Which just so happened to be the year of his 80thbirthday.
There are scores of people who want to hike the Appalachian Trail. It’s become a bucket list item.
Likewise, there are scores of people who want to write a book. It’s become a bucket list item too, not to mention a cliché.
But for all those wanting to hike the AT, a few try. And of the few who try, a fraction complete it.
The same can be said of those wanting to write books.
Here’s my paraphrase of what Mr. Shaffer wrote about hiking the AT:
You cannot say you will hike the Appalachian Trail. You can only say you’ll try.
For me, the joy, story, struggle, purpose and root note of my creative life lies in the trying, not in a destination called “success”.
When I enter a mountain trail, I come alive.
When I enter the written word, I come alive.
And no amount of success or failure will ever change that.
Don’t beat yourself up over the things you cannot control in your creative life (like success).
Find some places and spaces so powerful, so moving, each time you enter them, you come alive.
Isn’t that what drew us into a creative life in the first place?
From May 2012 to July 2013, I wrote a weekly series of intimate essays for writers and artists seeking a deeper connection with their identity and place as modern creatives. I called this series Root Notes. This was an essay in that series. It was originally published on May 30, 2012.