Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Mountain

Posted by Lynne

Amy's reference to The Myth of Sisyphus is the inspiration for my post this morning. I've loved and leaned on Albert Camus's famous essay all my life. For those unfamiliar with it, or in need of a refresher, the essay is about a man's search for meaning, his struggle to understand absurdity. It's a primer on existentialism.

It's rich on many levels, so I do suggest reading it in it's entirety. The most known portion of it involves a man pushing a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll down again. His fate is to continue to do this forever without ever seeing different results.

After spending several days deep in revision three of my novel, I can relate to Sisyphus. Without changing a single character or plotline, I have expanded and fine-tuned my story. I changed some scene locations, added deeper motives for certain characters' actions, and included more backstory. Unlike Sisyphus, in this attempt to move my efforts up the mountain, I'm getting somewhere.

From the outside looking in, the process of writing a novel is absurd. Read about writers and their process and you'll find these universal truths. A writer spends incalculable hours thinking about the story, writing the story, revising the story, editing the story. To say nothing of what's required to gain representation for the story, or find a home and readers for the story.

I have spent more time with my characters than with some real people I truly enjoy spending time with. I've forfeited beach time, shopping trips and lunches, in favor of hanging out on an imaginary dock and in a child's bedroom. I've written, rewritten and rewritten again a scene on a boat, in a police station, and in a garage. If my little darling ever sells to a publisher and I take my advance and divide it by the hours I've spent writing, I'm certain to be in the red.

Examining writing a novel from the inside out, is a different matter. What some see as absurdity is full of meaning to the writer. For me, each revision strengthens my faith. I'm more certain than ever that I have an important story to tell. I'm the person to tell it, and someday a reader or two will enjoy the concrete reality of my sisyphusian efforts.

At the end of Camus's essay, he sums up the search for meaning beautifully. He concludes that the struggle itself is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

When I'm writing, I'm happy. Though I admit, getting to the top of the mountain would be nice.


Melissa Amateis said...

I've been struggling with happiness lately, and some of it does have to do with writing. I find I am happiest when I'm working on my novel or short story or just plotting my next novel. But when I'm not, when I'm too exhausted to work on it because the day job has sucked every last molecule of energy out of me, I find unhappiness creeping into me.

But even more is the waiting. I have two partials out with two different agents and I haven't heard a word in months. That frustration bleeds into every other part of my life because writing comprises such a large part of my being.

I feel like I have to push that boulder up the mountain again and again with no end in sight. But I know deep inside that it is only a matter of time before I make it to the top of the mountain. Before that happen, though, that boulder is getting heavier and heavier.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


Sometimes the only way to keep pushing, is to let others help you. It's okay to accept help (come here). Sometimes it's okay to rest. (Do something fun, like camp out in a bookstore).

And sometimes you just have to have faith. Which, of course, is easier said then done.

If you have partials out and WIPs, then you will get there. You are a writer. Hang in and hang on.


Larramie said...

The time issue in writing is anything but balanced, We know it can literally take years -- even a lifetime -- to reach publication and then what? Readers can consume your work in a matter of hours or days and it's all over for them. And it hardly seems fair....unless they're happy. ;o)

Melissa Amateis said...

Thanks, Lynne. I realized after I posted that I sounded terribly negative. Didn't mean to be, but the frustration has been eating at me for weeks now.

But you gals always know how to make me feel better and keep going. For that, I thank each and every one of you!

Therese Fowler said...

Lynne, your post has now fixed the song "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" from The Sound of Music firmly in my head, drats!

You are well on your way to the top of your mountain; posts as eloquent as this one demonstrate your skill--but more than that, your perseverance.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


You're right, a reader may take hours or days to consume a book. Yet if a reader told me my book was a page turner--he or she couldn't put it down--I would have been successful.


Don't you worry. We all have days, weeks, months like that. I would be sunk without my friends at The Writers' Group and other blogs--like yours.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


I have two musicians living in my home; one jazz, one classical. Can you imagine the songs that get stuck in my head?

Speaking of getting to the top of the mountain--you've certainly put your time in, and are getting just rewards.

Thanks for your kind words, Lynne