On Your Left

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By Lynn H. Blackburn

One of my family’s favorite things to do is to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail. Built on an old railroad bed, the Virginia Creeper Trail offers a unique biking experience.

Seventeen miles. Downhill.


It’s an amazing ride. The scenery is stunning, and the trail is open to cyclists of all experience levels. As you head down the mountain, you see professionals wearing their padded bike shorts, wild little boys on their 20” bikes peddling as fast as their legs can go, infants snoozing in their bike seats, and parents cruising along with their toddler behind them on a tagalong.

For the most part, the cyclists are respectful of the trail and their fellow cyclists. There’s a real sense of camaraderie. After all, we’re all on the same trail, headed in the same direction. We all want to achieve the same thing—to get to the bottom safely and have a great time doing it.

With such a variety of skill levels, it would be boring if you had to start down the trail and ride in single file. Fortunately, that’s not how it works. There may be a bit of bunching up at the top, but before long everyone finds their own rhythm. The faster riders start calling out the standard warning, “On your left!” as they pass the riders taking the trail at a more leisurely pace.

A few years ago, I rode the trail with my 4-year-old on the tagalong. It didn’t take long for me to hear someone behind me call out, “On your left!” moments before they sailed past me. Over the course of our ride, there were plenty of cyclists who passed me, and I never saw them again.

Some passed me, and then I passed them, and then they passed me, and we went back and forth like that the whole time, depending on whose kids needed a break or how long we paused to check out a waterfall or take pictures of some red barns.

I heard, “On your left!” a lot on the ride and that was okay. I wasn’t in a hurry. I wanted to enjoy the experience. I was with my family and the pace had to work for all of us.

When I heard, “On your left,” there was no sense of frustration or jealousy. I felt no aggravation at the pace the passing cyclist had set or the progress they had made. I harbored no secret desire to swerve over and block their progress or impede their journey.

Why? Because it wasn’t a race.

Sometimes we hear, “On your left,” a lot during our writing journey.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

Those writers you started out with? They are signing with agents, signing with publishers, and signing books with their name on them.

Or you see the pictures of authors at national conferences while you’re at home in yoga pants with your hair in a ponytail, no makeup, and a sink full of dishes. You watch an awards ceremony and see names of people you know flash across the screen. You clap and cheer for them and you really are happy. For them.

But for you?

You start wondering when it will be your turn. If it will ever be your turn.

(This is all hypothetical of course…)

So, hypothetically, should this happen to you, maybe it would help to remember . . .

It’s not a race.

Your journey down the trail won’t look like anyone else’s.

Some of the people on the trail, well, they are going to leave you in their dust. That’s okay. Let them go. Realize that they are writing at a pace you cannot sustain. Not yet. Maybe when you’ve been on the trail longer, you’ll build up the endurance and expertise to keep pace with them. For now, enjoy reading their books and tell your friends to read their books. Send them encouraging emails and leave them great reviews.

Most of the people on the trail are people you’ll be experiencing this ride with for years. You’re going to see them at conferences and hang out with them on-line, and sometimes they’ll pass you and sometimes you’ll pass them, and if you’re very blessed, they’ll become friends and your journey will be sweeter for them. Show up at their book signings and help them brainstorm. If they get tired or life forces them to take a break, don’t forget about them.

And whatever you do, always remember that there are kids on this trail. They are fresh and young, and they have no idea what they are doing. They need advice. At some point, you’ll have an opportunity to call out, “On your left!” — or pull over and help them pump up a tire (or plot line). Don’t forget what it was like during your first years on this journey. Every now and then, take the time to help the newbies out.

Finally, take a deep breath and look around.

Is there anywhere else you’d really rather be?


Then keep pedaling.

It’s an amazing ride.

Your writing journey won’t look like anyone else’s, so enjoy the ride! What a bike ride taught me about the writing life. @LynnHBlackburn #ACFWBlogs #writetip #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Lynn H. Blackburn writes romantic suspense and her titles have won the Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Faith, Hope, and Love Reader’s Choice Award. Her newest series, Defend and Protect, kicks off in March 2021 with Unknown Threat. You can connect with Lynn at LynnHBlackburn.com.






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