The blank page is a writer’s worse enemy. How many times have we sat frozen, staring at a blur of white space? It amazes me to hear famous authors have suffered this fate. The whole “get back on the bike” analogy doesn’t apply, or maybe we get back on-write a few lines-only to fall off again as our pros halt to a slow leak.
I visited the Tundra last week. Alaska in all its majesty. Just the word Tundra creates a picture: icy cold, barren and brutally absent of life. Most writers, I believe, carry a whisper of their writing life with them, even when the rest of our brain and body vacation.
Outside Skagway, as the train climbed the Yukon route, I admired the coastal mountains, waterfalls tucked into ravines. We found little snow, only the dusting of cottonwood floating in the cool breeze. Western hemlocks, kelly green, filled the mountainsides. It was all breathtaking, the steam engine chugging upward towards the Tundra.
Twenty miles in, at the Summit, the terrain slipped away. Uneven rocks blanketed the land. But the Tundra wasn’t as I expected. Jagged white rocks reminded me of my blank pages waiting for me at home, waiting for life. And as the train navigated the tight curves of White Pass the rugged slopes obliged. Pines filled the craggy land. Not upward but horizontal along rocks, dipping into shadows and snaking outward like hungry roots damned to survive.
As the locomotive looped and began its decent, in the distance the mountains opened and a slice of the ocean rested below, shimmering in sun.
The excursion left me awe-inspired and the writer in me, ever hopeful, came away with these thoughts:
- My journey may not end as I imagine. By all means this doesn’t make it less fruitful. I’m open for what’s around the bend. Another route perhaps? Maybe steeper than I expected. Either way, I’ll enjoy the view.
- I’m tossing my preconceived ideas of authoress to the caboose. No more focusing on the endgame, that summit, where we switch tracks from writer to author. Okay, I’ll consider bragging should I achieve the honor someday. Beyond that I’m not expecting my life to change anytime soon.
- Writers, like me, grow like trees. Some of us grow upward, other’s outward, like the pines in the Tundra. I plan to read many genres, even a few I dislike. I’ll see more plays, listen to classical music, paint and sculpt clay. Diverse exposure deepens our discipline. I want to stay hungry like the roots damned to survive.
In the end, what I gained aboard the train ride is a glimpse of a railroad built against odds. That’s me, I suppose. Finding an agent is an uphill climb. Filling white space, a daily challenge. But I’ll keep chugging along, blowing off steam along the way.