The other week I was at the dojo watching my nine-year-old daughter, who'll be going for her junior black belt in karate in October. Seated next to me was a man whose 11-year-old son is in the same boat. I don't know how we got on the subject, but we began discussing our childrens' relative contentedness with where they are. The man said his son always wants to be older and was surprised when I said my daughter had never expressed similar feelings, that she'd always seemed perfectly happy with wherever she was at the time.
Right after I said it, I realized I was also surprised she'd never expressed those feelings, seeing as my own memories of being younger involve me racing through my childhood, always overeager to grow older in order to get more of what I perceived as freedom.
And then there are all those people I know, now that I'm older, who wish the process would go in reverse, always wishing they could slow time so they get older at a slower rate, or better yet, become younger again.
Somewhere along the way, I shook off my old habits. There may be times when I wish I could slow time for a bit, so I can savor the stage I'm at or the stage my child is at, but I never wish myself younger or older. I like wherever I am, and have for a long time. Forty-six is fine and 47 in a few weeks will be fine and so forth.
I think the same philosophy can be applied to the writing life.
It's easy when you're a writer to get caught up in where you want to be rather than you are. When you're unpublished, you want an agent; when you have an agent, you want a publisher; when you're published, you want to be published better; when you're published better, you want to win awards; when you're JK Rowling, you want... Well, I don't know what you want then, but surely you must want something.
The point is that there's nothing wrong with the wanting - we all want things. The point is that when we want things so much it obscures the glorious present, that's when it becomes problematic. There's a certain art, I think, in learning how to balance future wants and current pleasure with where you are at any given moment in time.
One of my editing clients who'd originally been solely concerned with being published recently wrote me, "I love writing but, as a science person, I never learned the storytelling craft. I want to spend the 2nd half of my life mastering this art. Selling a book would just be icing." I think that right there she's encapsulated what I'm talking about here. It's the journey, not the destination. If all you focus on is the destination: 1) you won't appreciate the journey, and if that's the way you're going to be about it, you probably won't be satisfied when you get to the destination either, or at least not for more than five minutes; or 2) you may die before you get there -cheery thought!
Do you ever read mountain-climbing books? I do. I have a particular passion for them. And what I've found is that the most fascinating and exciting parts are never someone standing on top of a mountain, but rather, how they get there and what they do afterward. Attainment happens in a moment, one ephemeral moment, so you may as well make everything else count too.
As hard as it is, try not to hurry Time.
Work toward the future while finding ways to be happy with where you are today.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: WE KNOW WHAT I THINK, BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Be well. Don't forget to write.