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Blood Mountain and Writing a Book

When I started writing a book, one of the first things I did was set up accountability. I established a deadline and consequences for my book completion. I wasn't sure if I would be more motivated by a positive consequence or a negative one. I decided to pick one of each. The positive one was to hike to the summit of Blood Mountain. Finally, 3 months after publication, I set out on the trail.

About mile into the hike, it dawns on me. Hiking this mountain is so much like the book writing process. As I began hiking, I was so excited. Everything is so fresh and new, it feels amazing. It's fun to explore my writing just like I am exploring the lower realms of this mountain. I enjoy the process of becoming familiar with the landscape of my mind as well as the landscape of the mountain.

I get my bearing on the mountain by using maps posted on large wooden boards as well as looking for blue and white blazes on the trail. Similarly, I follow a detailed outline to pull out ideas, narratives and information to include in the book.

At one point, I merge onto the Appalachian Trail, taking time to remember landmarks to guide me back down. At one point, the book merges and I see the path clearly. It takes shape and I see the entire vision.

And now I climb, up up up up up. Some parts are easy as the trail flattens out. Some parts are steep, scrambling over boulders, switchbacks, stairs made out of stone. I start to tire, I question myself. How much longer to the top of this mountain? I write and write and write and write. How much more do I have to write until it's complete?

The final push to the summit seems endless. Sometimes it seems like walking in circles. Are we there yet? More steps and around the bend. Is this the top? No, not yet. Like editing, I pour over the same pages, the same sentences. I review the same paragraphs and ideas over and over until it coheres.

Finally, the first overlooks. The views are incredible. Sweeping vistas, mountains everywhere. Standing on top of huge boulders, a sense of reward washes over me. The end is in sight, I see the book take its final form. It makes sense, it tells a complete story. At least to me it does.

At last, the stone building. The true summit, the end of the hike for me. A shelter, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. It provides me with cover from the light rain that has developed. I'm exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. I take a couple of photos and take a few for others nearby. I grab a snack and drink some water. It's all downhill from here. The book is done. Time to celebrate my accomplishment and share with others. I hire a book cover designer and a typesetter. I can step back from the intense process.

This is the easy part, right? I already climbed the mountain, I reached the summit. But most injuries happen on the descent. On the way down, I have to pay attention. Even more attention to each step as I descend the mountain trail. I have been there before, but it's from an entirely different angle. The book is written, final decisions are made about it and yet...

Why did you do this anyway? Why did you write a book about yoga? Why do you think you have something to offer? The book isn't any good, don't publish it. Who is going to read it anyway? You don't even know enough about yoga to put something out there. Others will think the book is crap, then what? I'm not good enough to write a book. Who do you think you are?

I keep walking down the path, carefully attending to every step. I listen to the negative thoughts in my mind. But like hiking a mountain, I have no choice. I hiked all the way up there, I wrote the book. Now I have to come down the mountain. I have to put the book out there and not care what others think. Not even what the voices in my head think.

The name Blood mountain comes from a bloody battle fought between the Cherokee and Creek, two strong Indian tribes. The same can be said for any creative endeavor, including writing a book. It's a battle between two worthy opponents: the reality in my mind, and reality as it is.

It's been said that 80% of people feel they have a book inside of them. Yet, only 1-3% of people actually complete and publish them. It's draining, thrilling and gratifying. But it also brings up a lot of fear. Book as battle with my own ego. Who wins? I do.

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