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August 21, 2018

A Reminder to Enjoy the Journey

White stone path through tunnel of trees with text: Enjoy the Journey

Last week I mentioned that I was trying to survive the week from hell. The week didn’t end any better, as those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter might have already seen the news that this past weekend we had to say goodbye to our cat.

On Facebook, I shared an image of Raven from 5 years ago (taken at the vet after we first got her) and this message:

Thank you to the hundreds who have commented and shared their condolences. Truly, thank you so much for those. Your kind thoughts helped me through the weekend.

The last time we had to say goodbye to a cat, it was after she’d lived for 21 years, so to lose Raven after only 5 too-short years was a shock. Add in all the other bad things going on for our family last week, and well…let’s just say that even though I’m not an astrology person, I’m glad Mercury’s no longer retrograde as of this week. *smile*

Yet we also feel blessed that we were able to give a death-row kitty 5 years of a good, well-loved life. We’ve been focusing on the time we did have with her, and how we were lucky to have had her in our lives.

I keep imagining that I hear the tinkle of her collar bell throughout the house, which fills me with sadness anew every time, but no matter our grief when things don’t work out like we planned, we can still try to appreciate any enjoyment along the way. And just as she gave us plenty of enjoyment, I remember that the journey of life is what matters.

Focus on Experiences

At the same time I was deep in the grieving process this past weekend, I saw a Twitter thread by Darren Rowse to remind me to keep the big picture in mind:

His perspective of “wrong turns” being important in our life meshes with an attitude I’ve tried to hold on to throughout my life: No time is “wasted” if we get something out of the experience.

The Journey Is What’s Important

Like Darren, I had a similar “unfocused” career path, as I wrote about a few years ago:

For a period of ten years after graduation, because I was moving so frequently, I worked for temporary agencies… That might seem like a long time to not have a career job (pre-Millennial time anyway), but I enjoyed the experience.

I got an inside look at tons of industries: major TV station, large-circulation magazine, automotive manufacturer, stock broker, etc. So I learned a little bit about a lot of companies and industries, from technologies to office politics, all of which is great experience for a writer.

Experience. Learning. Those are valid goals on their own.

That idea is similar to something else I’ve said before:

If our goal is not to “succeed”
or avoid failure or mistakes,
but to learn something,
we will never fail.

Life and Writing Are Journeys, Not Destinations

As writers, these concepts are especially important for us to internalize. Our careers as authors are so nebulous. When can we say we’ve “succeeded”?

Is it when we’ve finished a book? Gotten an agent? A publisher? Published a book? Published 5 books? Hit a list? Seen a story of ours read “in the wild”? Have fans begging for more?

The goalposts of success can keep moving, so enjoy the journey. Click To TweetThe goalposts can keep moving further away. A breakout hit can turn a “nobody” into a well-known author. And we can just as quickly fall back into obscurity with “one-hit wonder” next to our name.

I know all too well how focusing on the next goal and the next can prevent us from enjoying the here and now, and I know how hard it can be to celebrate milestones and accomplishments along the way if we’re constantly telling ourselves we’re not “there” yet. Losing someone we care about—and thinking about the happy times we shared—forces us to remember that the experiences of life are what’s important.

As a pantser, this perspective reminded me of what it’s like to write by the seat of my pants. I don’t always know where the story is going, but I sometimes have to trust that it will all work out. That going with the flow can create a worthwhile story. Or similarly, that enjoying the flow of our journey will give us a worthwhile life.

Enjoy sharing experiences with others. Enjoy learning and growing. Enjoy the journey of writing and of life. That’s what matters. *smile*

Do you tend to get caught up in goals and focusing on what comes next rather than on the here and now? Do you think we need to enjoy the moment or focus on the journey sometimes? What helps you remember to do that? What aspects of the journey or experiences of life are most important to you?

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M.C. Tuggle

A timely and profound message. As the Stoics say, amor fati – learn to love your fate.

Piper Bayard

Timely post, particularly for a profession where the goal post is five feet away one moment and completely out of sight the next. Thank you.

Sieran Lane

Hey Jami,

I realized recently that when it comes to writing, I actually care more about the journey than about the destination. Yes, the shiny image in the distance of “becoming an amazing writer” is very appealing; yet, I find that I feel even more joy and excitement when I learn new things and continually improve. Like you said, when would you define yourself as “a success” anyway? The goal posts can indeed keep moving. Some may think I’m rather successful, since I’ve written more than 3 million words of story, and have finished 20 books and self-published one. But you could also say I’m terrible, since I’ve only published one so far, and I even want to put out a second edition of this book. It’s much better to focus on the enjoyment of the learning process, or the enjoyment of the activity (writing) itself.

Deborah Makarios

My word, you have been in the wars! But as Augustine said: transeunt nubes, caelum autem manet. Clouds pass over, but the sky remains.
I hope you get to see some blue sky soon!
And thanks for the reminder to not spend life waiting for an ever-receding “then” – a valuable lesson.

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[…] To encourage us, Emily Temple collates Ray Bradbury’s greatest writing advice, and Jami Gold reminds us all to enjoy the journey. […]

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