I am what I abhor in society. I find myself sometimes pushing, reaching, struggling for an end result with little regard for how I get there.
I need to get to the store so I choose the quickest, most direct route.
I need to get a report done, so I only read what is necessary to generate the content.
I need a specific reference, so I Google the specific words and only look at the exact matches.
I need to eat, so I stop at a fast food place and grab a quick bite.
As a writer, I often wish I could download my brain and have all those novels in my head magically appear. I don’t like having to construct every letter, place every word just so, spend hour after hour pulling the words from my mind, like plucking shattered glass out of a wound. It’s tedious, it’s time-consuming, and sometimes it’s just plain torture.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing — other than patience and persistence — it’s that the journey matters. Sometimes more than the result.
I will sit down with an idea in mind. The idea may be the way a scene should play out, or the way a character should act. I will begin to write. However, along the way, I’ll get another idea, either a way to flesh out and enhance that first idea or to alter the first idea just slightly because this new way is better. Word by word, sentence by sentence, the writing journey for this one idea will branch, evolve, and become something I hadn’t originally intended or envisioned. The journey was allowed possible because I had to construct every word, create every sentence. This took time and effort. If I had downloaded the original idea, instantly and fully formed, it wouldn’t have evolved because there wouldn’t have been a journey.
Part of the creative process is allowing yourself to be open to new ideas, and new ways of reaching those ideas.
I’ve begun to put this spin on how I save money. I wish I could inherit a whack of money or win the lottery instead of saving little bit by little bit for my retirement or travel. However, in choosing to save my money, dollar by dollar, I am walking a journey. I choose not to buy a Starbucks coffee and instead brew my own. This conscious effort and time allows me to admire the view out my window, wash my dishes, play with my cat, or just sit in silence — all activities I consider constructive and beneficial to my everyday life. Because I am not waiting in line in a noisy Starbucks, staring at people I don’t know or want to know, I am a much happier, calmer person. All because I wanted to save five bucks. I shop garage sales and kijiji to save money, and in the process, I meet some wonderful new people. When I feel an urge to buy a new bookshelf or storage unit, but need to save money, I look at what I already have. In the end, I usually find that re-organizing, de-cluttering, and shifting my perspective allows me to see that I already have all I need. In the process, I find that I don’t need to spend money.
Living life is browsing the stacks and finding a fabulous book that you’d never think of searching for. It’s taking a route to work that you’ve never taken before, and discovering a new place to eat. It’s taking time for lunch and chatting with your co-workers. It’s brewing your own coffee and, while you’re waiting, noticing that the leaves on the trees across the street are turning yellow.
Choosing to spend time with your family isn’t a solitary decision that changes your life or theirs. It’s *how* you choose to spend time. You can choose to pick up the kids on the way to the drive-thru, send them to their rooms to do their homework, then sit in front of the TV all night. Sure, you’ve technically spent time with them. But more likely than not, the end goal was ‘spending time with the kids’ rather than ‘engaging with the kids.’ Be open to creative ways to spend time instead of just getting to the end goal of “spending time.”
How do you know if you’re walking the journey or being open to the process? Are you currently learning something? It is something you set out to learn (hopefully not)? Are you aware of the time? Do you feel energized? Lastly, did you get what you set out for? (hopefully so much more!)
If we looked at our lives the way we looked at a project, picking up the kids, grabbing a coffee, or traveling, we’d see only our end goal – death – and getting there as fast as possible.
I am aiming to let go of my expectations, of whatever result I believe should occur. I aim to let go of finding satisfaction in the completion and the having. Instead I am aiming to explore the adventure of the now and the process. Because life, like writing and saving money, isn’t about the result; it’s about the decisions we make and the lessons we learn along the way.
What end result will you let go of today?
Related posts / websites:
Graham Hill – LifeEdited on TED TV
Julia Cameron – The Artist’s Way