Close to our fourteenth hour driving the first day, it occurred to me that I didn’t mind long car rides the way I thought I did. As the endless lines on the highway lulled me into quiet contemplation, that cliché about enjoying the journey started to make perfect sense not just for life experiences but also in writing. The more I thought about it, the more I saw how much wisdom could be gleaned from our travels and applied to the craft, such as:
1. Celebrate the milestones. Rather than thinking about the miles we still had to go, we high-fived every time we crossed the border into another state. When each step is a celebration, the steps ahead don’t feel unbearable.
How it applies to writing: When you finish the first draft of an article or novel, it’s worth celebration. You don’t have to be published in order to recognize your perseverance. Since it can be hard seeing a project through to completion, why not observe each victory with a little merriment?
2. Take detours. Our final destination was almost 2,000 miles away, but if we weren’t willing to take a few detours we wouldn’t have made so many amazing memories.
How it applies to writing: Sticking with the original synopsis or outline is important, but sometimes the best writing comes when you're not afraid to deviate. New, colorful characters and exciting plot twists are introduced when you give your creativity room to play.
3. Don’t get hung up on the destination. If we spent the whole time trying to get home, we never would’ve seen wild horses grazing in the Outer Banks of NC or Spanish moss hanging from majestic oak trees in Savannah, GA.
How it applies to writing: Getting published and becoming a best seller is the ultimate reward, but it’s not the reason you began writing. Writing is a calling. It’s a need to create and to have a voice. Lack of patience will only cause you to stress over self-imposed deadlines, become defensive, submit incomplete manuscripts to agents, or even self publish a book before it is ready.
The winding roads, stops and starts, and new experiences of this trip were a reminder not to overlook the joy in every aspect of the writing process. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and impatient, but the moment we turn our art into a chore is the moment we lose sight of why we started writing in the first place: we love it. Writing isn’t a means to an end. It’s a journey.