A few years back—okay it was 18 years almost to the day but who’s counting—I went on a solo backpacking trip on the California Coast, Point Reyes National Seashore to be specific.
Going solo in the backcountry was a pretty regular occurrence in my life back then.
So, what was special about this trip? I decided not to take any food. Well, that’s not entirely true. I took food along but decided before hand not to eat any of it unless I had to.
I’d experimented with fasting at home for health reasons, but never in the wild, and I’d heard that fasting could open you up to your surroundings.
I hiked in five miles, stored my food in an animal-proof locker provided by the National Park Service and left it there for three and a half days.
I walked 8 to 10 miles a day for the next three days. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but I saw a lot of animals: two bobcats, seven deer, a fleeting glimpse of a mountain lion, a seal pup, hundreds of giant salamanders. In short, it was amazing.
But the one sighting that impacted me the most was a small crab that had just shed its shell. It was green and squishy and sat in the inter-tidal zone. Easy prey for a crow or seagull.
In order for that crab to grow it had to make itself vulnerable.
As a writer, how do you grow? How do you make yourself vulnerable?
Maybe you abandon a project that you love and start a new one.
Maybe you keep digging deeper into a story instead of abandoning it.
Maybe you finally send out queries for the manuscript you’ve been cuddling.
Maybe you start reading craft books.
Maybe you stop reading craft books.
Maybe you take the time to tear apart your novel and totally rewrite it even though there is no guarantee that you’ll make it any better.
Maybe you open up your writing to more beta-readers. Or maybe you pull back and work on trusting your inner-voice.
The path to growth is going to be different for everyone, and what you encounter on the path will change over time. I think one of the keys to growing is recognizing the areas where you feel resistance and then exploring that resistance, even if it makes you vulnerable.