When we work hard to fulfill our dreams, sometimes we can get swallowed up by the journey itself.
The journey can be so thrilling and rocky that we can lose track of our original intentions. We can get so caught up in the “sights and sounds” of the journey that we can forget that we are still headed toward a final destination. If we get really lost, we might even think that the wonderful sights and sounds of the journey are the final destination, and not mere “pit stops.”
Sometimes, the joys and surprises of the journey can be so tempting as to make us want to abandon the promises we made to ourselves at the very beginning of our journey. That is why, every once in a while, it is important to recalibrate. It is important to check back in with our compass. It is important to review the directions on our map. We must remember where we started, and we must make sure we haven’t strayed too far from the path as to be in completely foreign territory.
As I continue to pursue my dream of publishing my first novel, I am learning that knowing how to start the journey and knowing how to continue the journey are to two different animals.
It is true that you are free to begin your story wherever you please, but there are rules to where you continue your story.
If you don’t follow those rules, you could end up just as lost mid-way through the journey as when you began.
Getting So Caught Up In The Process That You Harm The Product
In the writing process, you can get caught up in the smaller scenes, scenes that give you great joy to write, but that are not as vital to your overall story. You can get easily distracted by these “pit stops”–you may even be tempted to go off on a tangent for a while, knowing fully well that you should probably be moving on.
There are so many detours on the way to finishing our story. It is so easy to get distracted. It is so easy to get caught up in the minutiae. It is so easy to get lost in the process itself.
It seems counterintuitive, but getting caught up in the journey can prevent us from completing the journey. It may seem strange but, in my experience, this seems to happen more often than we’d like to admit.
We can get obsessed with trying to get one moment of our story perfect, when what would be most helpful to us is if we just moved on and tried to get the whole story working again.
Being Held Hostage By The Process
I am ashamed to say that I’ve been swallowed up by the journey more often than I’d like to admit. But I’m working on getting myself back on track.
It’s not an easy thing to do, but here’s what I’m learning:
When someone just dreams a dream, but doesn’t work to make that dream a reality, that’s being held hostage by the product. But when someone works to make a dream a reality, but forgets to keep dreaming his dream all along the way, that’s being held hostage by the process.
When you allow yourself to be held hostage by the product, you prevent your dreams from unfolding. Likewise, when you allow yourself to be held hostage by the process, you also prevent your dreams from unfolding.
I never knew that one can be held hostage by the process, but it can happen.
When you write, you must always have one eye on the plot and another eye on theme.
In life, there is a similar diligence needed: you must always have one eye on what you do every day and another eye on what it means in the grand scheme of things.
The Process only makes sense if you always have The Product in mind. A Product only makes sense if you have a Process that can turn that Product into a reality. Product and Process go hand in hand, and if we neglect either one, at any point in the game, we may lose both Process and Product.
We end up in “No Man’s Land,” feeling more lost standing in the eye of the hurricane than when we did when we were collapsed at the foot of that whirlwind’s edge.
Where To Continue Your Story
If you are looking for where to begin your story, know that you may begin wherever you like.
But if you are looking for where to continue your story, you must be a lot more accurate.
You must look back and retrace the path that led you to this point (the point in which you currently reside). Then, you must envision the rest of the path, even though you have not visited this end yet. Then, you must take the step that would join the path that has led you here with the path that will lead you to the end you’ve only imagined.
That is where you continue your story: you continue your story at the intersection of Process and Product. From now on, your Process only leads you to your Product; and your Product only beckons you from the end of your Process.
The light of your dream should always be falling across your journey; and your journey should always have sign posts that lead directly to the light of your dream.
Where you go from here on out is a fusion of where the journey has led you and where you still dream of going.
If you want to make sure you don’t get distracted by the process, you have to keep one eye on the plot and another eye on the theme; if you don’t want to get swallowed up by the journey of life, you have to keep one eye on the work and another eye on the dream.
Today’s Courage Exercise
Assess whether you have allowed yourself to be held hostage by the process. Then, see if you can’t engage in the exercise I recommended in the post: examine where you have been and then imagine where you need to be going. See if you can’t re-join your Process with your Product. (Re-join your daily work with the dream that this daily work was supposed to be fulfilling.) Then keep moving forward without distraction. Keep moving forward, no longer mistaking mere “pit-stops” for your final destination.
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