Category Archives: Writing

Into the wind

I haven’t written for so long I’m terrified to post anything. But tonight, I found myself idly flipping through some of the blogs I follow, hoping to discover updates from other parts of the world, and realised if someone were to check my blog, they’d be sorely disappointed. My Blog Post page was coming up without content, which goes to show no one’s been reading my posts for a very long time.

On the 7th of October, my seventh anniversary for finishing the PCT came and went. I was on a trip at the time, laughing at the fact I created a schedule to finish my book by this date back in the spring. Thanks to my partner Tom (and I really mean thank you), who moved to my hometown in April, I decided it would be better to spend the summer in my kayak or hiking. So subsequently, I haven’t written a word since. But I’ve also had one of the best summers of my life despite Covid-19, thanks to the fact I live in a lightly populated country and province and have spent most of my free time in the backcountry with the world’s most magical human.

I plan to pick up the manuscript this winter, but the longer I leave it, the less inclined I am to tell my PCT story. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. I’m leaving the option open to either continue working on it, or as my dear friend Penny suggested, sit on a mountaintop, read it into the wind, and then let it go.

Part of me wants to finish the book, while I’m also glad the manuscript never entered the world. I’m still unclear what the story is about. I wanted to write about the most remarkable six-month period of my life because I still, to this day, relive so many moments with delightful nostalgia. But I’m inclined to leave the past behind. I’m scared I’ll be perceived as some love-struck fool, from what my editor in New York said, who gets into all sorts of stupid situations because of blindly following her heart.

I guess I’m scarred by her comment that my character wasn’t likable. This one hurt the most. If I had so many followers and praise for my blog, why would I want to publish something that makes me look foolish? I used to think it would be the best trail story ever written, and after receiving her feedback more than a year and a half ago now, I was shocked by how far I fell short. She even convinced me to write an entirely different manuscript, which has crippled and confused me. But I’m determined to make one final assessment this fall.

I’m aware I sound like a broken record, so if you’re thinking this post is just another rant about whether or not I’m going to write my book, you’re correct.

Have I been ranting about this topic for the past few years? Yes.

Am I going to continue ranting about this subject? Most likely.

Should you continue reading my blog if this is the case?

I’ll leave that decision to you.

At least I can take this opportunity to say I miss my online community and my faithful PCT followers. You all carried me through the most challenging times of my most recent years, and I’m truly grateful. If I do get back to hashing out the manuscript, it will be because of you. And if I don’t, I hope you’ll sit with me on that mountaintop in spirit as I read the words into the wind and say goodbye.  

Back to the drawing board

I’m either insanely persistent, completely crazy, or everything in between, because today I went back to the drawing board to analyse my memoir. You remember that book I’ve been talking about for the past six years? The one I’ve written five times already? Yeah, that one. It’s back in my life. I’m determined this is the final time I go through it though because as much as I love the PCT and cherish my trail experience, I need to move on from this god-damn manuscript.

The funny thing is, it took deciding to let the memoir go once and for all to reignite my passion for it. I’d finally made the decision the book had run its course and that I’d learned all I needed to through the writing experience. I even held a small ceremony to say goodbye, which I filmed a couple of months ago. (The preview is upside-down but the video is not.)

Then, after sifting through the emails I’d sent myself with notes and ideas, I came across a draft of the ‘Author’s Note’ I had written more recently. I was shocked to discover the writing was actually good, dare I say pleasing to read, and it made me rethink all the other ‘well written’ parts of the memoir I was about to throw away. (Apologies for all the cuss words in this video…)

The crazy thing was I felt immediately energised and motivated to write again. I later decided that instead of writing the book as a memoir, I would just write excerpts from the trail that connected  parts of the story together. But I’ve since realised I’ll never be satisfied if I don’t write this as the memoir I set out to write, so here I am again, six years later, back at the drawing board.

During all these years I planned to buy sticky notes and complete the exercise of planning before starting to write, and for six years I just dove straight into the business of writing and prayed the story would come together by itself. I did a pretty good job considering my naivety. But after having had a year away from it, and a year of growth in-between, I can now see all the pieces that are missing. Basically everything Betsy, the editor I paid in New York, pointed out so clearly last year was correct. It’s just a shame I got knocked down so badly it’s taken me a year to recover.

Even though I know everything that’s wrong with the memoir, I still don’t have all the answers of how to ‘right’ it just yet. That’s where the sticky notes come in, the book Story Genius by Lisa Cron, the Story Grid podcast with Sean Coyne and Tim Grahl, The Creativity Campus created by my dear friend and author Chrissy, AND last but not least, my wonderful editor and friend Heske, who has walked this trail during every single draft beside me.

I wasn’t going to tell anyone I was writing another draft, and I’m not promising a finished product. But all of you have been on this journey from the beginning too, so like it or not, you’re coming with me. Perfectionism, people’s opinions, and generally saying the wrong thing has really stumped my writing these last few months. I’ve felt narcissistic even writing about myself when there is so much going on in the world and so much pain being suffered. But I’ve missed writing and connecting with my online community, so I’m glad to be back here again.

Another writing milestone complete

As I round up chapter 20 of the fourth draft of my PCT memoir today, I thought it might be fitting to take you back three and a half years to when I was halfway through my first draft in 2015.

I’ve been intermittently posting videos of my ‘artistic journey’ over the past couple of months, and even though I only have 38 followers on my Muk Muk YouTube Channel, I’m enjoying sharing the experience in the hope to help other struggling writers like myself realize they’re not alone on that unpredictable, emotional rollercoaster we ride every time we sit down in front of our laptops to say something.

I’ve also committed to taking more risks this year and to stop caring too much about what people think. I’ve realized there’s really nothing to lose, and that failing to fulfill my potential is more painful than trying and not succeeding. I’ve also committed to being more self-confident in 2019, so I’m urging you all to sign up to my YouTube channel because even if you’re not into writing, watching me struggle and succeed during the biggest single undertaking of my entire existence will hopefully teach you something, or at the very least be entertaining!

5 years later I’m still hiking the PCT

October 7, 2013  will always be a special date for me. It was the day I completed the hardest thing I’d ever attempted in my life. It was the day I faced snowstorms, lost snowshoes, slid down bus-sized washouts, found myself lost in a whiteout, and was saved by the trail gods when my GPS miraculously started working again – remember? If not you can relive the experience here.

I arrived at the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail alone after 176 days. I never knew if and how I would make it to the end, until those wooden posts came into view and I realised I’d actually arrived.

That was five years ago today, and it feels as though everything and nothing has changed since then. The PCT taught me what I was capable of, the power of nature, the beauty of simple living, and the importance of community. It taught me to trust in the universe, demonstrated the best of the human spirit, and showed me that anything is achievable, one step at a time.

Keeping my blog introduced me to my passion for writing, and when I finished the trail in 2013, many people urged me to write a book about my experience. I’m happy to report that I am, and am currently in the midst of draft four having started writing back in May of 2014.

Back then I realised I had to put pen to paper to make sense of it all, and my first drafts were more like therapy than articulate prose. But if I thought hiking the PCT was the hardest thing I’d ever done, writing a book about it knocks that out of the park. Imagine hiking a section of trail, and then going back to hike it again a hundred times over just to make sure you didn’t miss anything. I’ve continued to hike the PCT on paper over the past five years, and I find it amazing I still have the energy to keep going. The story never gets old, it’s just taken me years to refine my skills so I can give the characters and events the credit they deserve.

I’ve kept videos diaries of my writing process since the beginning, and am going to start posting them on my new Muk Muk YouTube channel (to which I have zero subscribers to be sure to sign up), in the hope that by the time I post the last one, I might have reached the end of draft four and be ready to send it to a publisher. I hope these videos will help other wanna-be-writers like me suffering through their own personal hell. Writing is just like hiking the trail, with moments of great beauty interspersed with pain, suffering and an insatiable hunger to be finished. I look forward to sharing the experience with you, and celebrating the moment I cross that border for the very last time.

Muk Muk

Writing a Memoir – Video 1 – The Beginning