I learned something valuable this week, thanks to the shared wisdom of a friend. I learned the journey is as important, if not more important, than the goal I am trying to achieve.
In my quest to discover what makes some books more difficult to put down than others, I started reading Writing 21st Century Fiction: High-Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling by Donald Maass. It is a fascinating book, and even though I’m not finished reading it yet, it has given me several ideas for improving my novel. I wanted to incorporate those ideas immediately. However, I had already reworked the first fifteen chapters of my novel repeatedly, and I was beginning to fear it would never be finish.
First, my protagonist was an eighteen-year-old young man, and the story was in third person point-of-view (POV). Then I changed it to an eighteen-year-old young woman. Then I decided it would be more interesting in first person POV. Then I decided my character would have more depth if she had more life experience, so I changed her to a thirty-year-old, secure in her profession. Each time I changed the story, it improved dramatically, yet many craft books warn about changing too much. Instead, they say finish the first draft, then make changes in rewrites.
I told my friend about my frustration, wanting to make more changes, but worrying that I would never finish. She said, “You know, enjoying the journey sometimes is just as important as enjoying the destination.” She was right; that simple statement made my path crystal clear. I have been using this novel to learn how to write. Each change I’ve made has resulted in a better novel and a greater understanding of the craft of writing. It may take me a while to finish the book, but I’m determined to finish, and the final product will be so much better because of all I have learned along the way.
As I contemplated that revelation, I realized that it applied to other areas of my life as well. My goal to lose weight frustrates me time after time. I’ve lost about six pounds so far, but it seems to be taking forever. I gained weight today, even though I had eaten fewer calories yesterday. I spent a good fifteen minutes fuming over that, but this is a journey as well. I’ve learned that I must drink enough water or my body holds on to the fat. I’ve realized that the types of foods I eat are as important as the number of calories I eat. I’ve learned so much, and I’m sure there is still more to learn. If I could lose the weight as fast as I would like too, I wouldn’t have time to absorb the knowledge. So, there is value in this journey as well.
Then there is the path I’m following with my husband and his many health issues. This journey is a little different because my goal is not a long-term goal. Instead, it is simply to enjoy the company of my husband each day, and to try and be as patient and loving as I can be. Every time I struggle to see a challenge or situation from his perspective, I gain a new insight into not only my husband and our time together, but into the world around us as well. I’m not going to speculate on when this journey will end or what will happen between now and then, but I pray that as I walk this path I will become a stronger, wiser, and more compassionate person.
Each of us has difficult goals we would like to achieve. Goals that take a journey to accomplish. Yes, it can be frustrating at times, but if we focus on the knowledge we are gaining along the way the journey becomes much more enjoyable. Happy traveling.