|picture from pinterest|
Life seems to be a lot about destinations.
You know, finish high school. Graduate college. Get married. Retire. Or, on a smaller level: finish that book, get through that school year, make it to that date. That’s why people have bucket lists, I guess. So they can cross off important events in their lives that they’ve accomplished.
It does feel good to cross everything off your list. I use lists a lot, and I know the feeling. But… then what? There’s a feeling of satisfaction, but are you really done with all you need to do for the day? Probably not. And did you only do everything on that list? No. I bet you did a bunch of other random things too.
But, through the day, you were probably looking forward to that moment when everything got crossed off the list. Then you’d be able to relax and have time to laugh again. Same with during the year. The first day of summer, and you’ll be able to breathe easy again, knowing school won’t come back to bite until the fall.
Wait a moment. Is that actually true? Does having everything crossed off your list make you more relaxed? Maybe. But what about tomorrow’s list? Does the first day of summer make you completely content? Probably not. Because you will have to go back to school or get a job or something.
If you think about it, the list of things you have to do goes on forever and ever and so does the list of days you’re looking forward to. On and on and on until the day you die.
An exhausting (and possibly morbid) thought. I apologize for bringing it to light. (bear with me. I’m going somewhere with this :P)
We like to think that everything’s all done when our lists are crossed off and that long-awaited day arrives, and often (at least for me) sigh when we realize that another one is coming tomorrow. It would be great if we could scramble and finish everything and just have a moment when there is nothing to think about.
We know this obviously isn’t possible though. Even after you retire, you probably still have a list of things you want to do and look forward to (at least, I’d hope so ;). We know that life isn’t a destination — it’s a journey. The only destination there is that will be complete and final is Heaven.
Yet (here’s my point) I think many young writers forget to apply this principal to writing. I know I do. Because we all daydream about this particular phrase:
When I publish my book.
Doesn’t that give you a warm, fuzzy feeling? Like once you publish your book, everything will be alright? Like you’ll never have writers’ block again, that your plots will perfect after that and you can sit back and relax. Your book is published. You are officially an all-knowing author.
Um… sorry. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Like life, writing is a journey.
I’m starting to pay more attention to what authors say about their own writing. That they’re always learning, that they’ll never be done. You can even see this in action if you read their debut novel, then their newest novel.
It’s like school. You can graduate, but you’ll probably still be learning new things for the rest of your life.
I think that publishing a book is a lot like finishing school. You’re in the big leagues now, but you’ll never stop learning.
Just because you’re a published author doesn’t mean you know everything about writing, that your plots are always perfect, that your characters are always deep, that you always have motivation to write, and that your books always end up perfect. It means you’ve taken a step in becoming a better writer.
Because, really, do we write just to get published? Will we suddenly be perfectly happy with our writing once our book is published? Would we just stop writing and learning simply because our book is published? That would almost be like simply living to finish high school, then having no other aspirations in life after that but to bask in feeling complete.
We write because we love to write. We love to write beyond getting published.
Sometimes the narrow-minded mantra of “publish my book, publish my book, publish my book,” can really rob the joy out of writing. It can become a goal we obsess and stress over.
But, hey — stop rushing. Just because you’re published doesn’t mean you’re a perfect writer. It’s a goal. It’s a milestone. It isn’t a final destination. I forget who this quote belongs to but: it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. Don’t let the anticipation of the destination rob the joy of the journey
So yeah. Set that goal, and go after it with all your heart. But don’t forget that you’re on a journey, and it’s a ride you should enjoy. If you feel you can’t query for your novel for another year — then wait. It’s not the end of the world. If this isn’t the book you want to publish — take your time with another.
Doesn’t that take so much stress out of your writing? To know that you are actually right where you want to be — writing your books. Yes, they may not be published yet, but you’re writing, and you’re loving it, and that is what matters.
So, to dreams, to goals, but most of all, to these incredible journeys we’re all on.