It’s a cliche. It’s not about getting there; it’s about what you experience along the way.
And, really, the value of tree-smelling (or it is rose-smelling?) has been drummed into my belief system. I’ve held it in my heart, intent on making it my life’s slogan, but
The next worthy thought would intrude, by the next day, and I would forget and refocus on the trophy at the finish line. It’s the destination and not the journey. It’s not when you get there, but how.
But, that isn’t really true, is it? Sometimes the journey is far worse than the destination and is the only thing that makes the journey worthwhile.
I went to Colorado over Christmas and it was the thought of seeing my mother and brother and other relatives and spending some time away from home base that made the plane flight bearable. It was the thought of my mother’s cheesecake and hot water cornbread and hugs that got me through the almost nauseating rides to and from the airport, the inevitable frisking by airport security, that stomach-dropping turbulence, and rude, almost amateurish landings.
Now, I know the point of that timeless advice is to focus our attention on the things we gain from writing versus the things we gain from finishing a manuscript, like satisfaction, pride, and occasionally money. Writing a novel, short story, essay, news article, teaches us about writing, about ourselves as writers every time we do it, theoretically. We get a little better at it every time. We learn how to solve problems in our writing, how to better phrase thoughts, how to be more concise, how to explain things simply, then simpler. The process of writing, the journey from first word to finished manuscript makes us better writers.
But, maybe there’s more to it than that. Maybe the journey isn’t what happens between the first word and the last. Maybe the journey, the writer’s journey, is the entire journey of the writer’s life – from childhood reader to beginning writer to…whatever, whoever the writer becomes. From skilled to talented. From unlearned to unknown to published. From unlearned novice to experienced, educated expert.
From womb to dust.
From your first word to your last.
I used to think you had to enjoy the process of writing in order to appreciate the journey. But, maybe you have to decide to appreciate the journey, to value it, to start enjoying the process.