by Deren Hansen
first I thought it was a nice metaphor implying the zen of traveling
well; the value of stopping to smell the proverbial roses; the
importance of enjoying the process over the product. It's also a concise
(and gentle way) to help aspiring writers understand that the endeavor
upon which they've embarked is likely to take a long time.
metaphors are at least a two (and sometimes three) edged sword. I think
one of the nastiest edges is the fact that a journey implies a
The problem with publishing is that
there's no destination. There are certainly milestones, but in this
industry there's no place to reach that signals the end of the journey.
Remember, breaking in only means that you're a player.
cynical wit might suggest one's coffin represents the certain end of
one's writing journey. While often true, there are some writers who are
much bigger dead than they ever were alive.
Part of the problem is simply structural: remember, novel means new. In the market that is commercial publishing,
like Hollywood, it doesn't matter what you did yesterday. The only
question people care about is, what have you done for me today?
"Wait," you may protest, "when people talk about their writing journey, they mean their personal development as a writer."
But can one ever reach a point where they have completed their personal
development as a writer? Are there authors who have mastered their
craft and truly have nothing left to learn?
I thought not.
I'm not arguing that you don't measure up as a writer if you're not
constantly producing new material. Quite the opposite: you should write
because you want to write, not because you've got to undertake a
My critique, however is more fundamental: the very notion of a
writing journey does more harm than good because it encourages aspiring
writers to look forward to the day when they reach their destination. In
other words, it's the writer's equivalent of saying, "I'll be happy
when I [win the lottery; get a better job; lose some weight; etc.]
much better to live, and learn, and love in the present. Write your
current project so that if you write nothing else you can still proudly
say, at the final accounting, "I am a writer."
you must have a travel-related metaphor, writing is like being a nomad
in the desert: it's not about getting to any place in particular, it's
about living well each day.
Deren blogs at The Laws of Making.