“Not all those who wander are lost.”
“Not all those who wander are lost” — what an inspiring and consoling thought from that master wordsmith, JRR Tolkein! We’ve all been there: things seem to be perking along and suddenly, thump! crash! crunch! thud! Everything seems to be tumbling to the ground in a muddle.
When this happens, it’s easy to feel lost and it’s important to remember that you are not lost, but wandering — you are finding your way, only it may not be exactly the way that you expected or envisioned. I’ve done my share of wandering in the forest of words and here are a few things I’ve learned that may be helpful if you find yourself lost in the woods:
Wandering isn’t a waste: When you find that you’ve somehow fallen off the path you were on, you first reaction may be to panic and feel that you are losing momentum. But consider this: the path you were on may have been a hidebound, limited one that couldn’t supply you with what you need to discover to make your work better, truer, deeper. So don’t freeze, “freelax” as Alex used to say. Trust that something new and exciting awaits you.
Wandering can be refreshing: Sometimes, we can become almost mechanical in the way we approach whatever stage of a project we happen to be in when things start to fall apart. This can be a sign that we aren’t bringing as much creativity as we’re capable of to the job at hand. That’s why being forced to halt our forward march can actually be instructive. It may be showing us that we are putting too much head and not enough heart into what we’re writing.
Wandering can be wonderful: If we can let go of the fear factor and just let ourselves jump into the mud puddle instead of stepping over it, we can rediscover the fun and sense of wonder that make wordsmithing such a joy. So jump and write on!
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