Saturday, July 25, 2009
My friend's posture was a little defensive and matched the I know what I'm talking about look he was giving me. I tried not to smile, but couldn't stop myself. I hope he didn't take it the wrong way.
"All I have to do is punch the address in and my GPS will get me there."
I had been there several times and knew the way. I had given him a detailed map, and turn by turn directions. I reassured him that I would arrive first and be waiting on the curb watching for him. We had exchanged cell phone numbers. But he was more comfortable trusting an electronic device than me and my experience.
The smile had come as I recalled a recent conversation with my brother. We chatted on the phone as he navigated his way around an unfamiliar city. His language got a little colorful as he told me he had to hang up because his GPS had given him the wrong directions and mistakenly led him to turn into a military facility. On another occasion, it had told him to make a u-turn in the middle of the interstate and take a road that wasn't there. Sometimes technology can't compete with good, old fashioned, human know-how.
Back to my friend. Would I have responded the same way had our roles been reversed? Maybe. I've been there before with my writing. I know a handful of authors, editors, and agents. I've asked the same questions other writers have been asking for centuries. I've filled notebooks with what I've learned through seminars, classes, reading, and one on one advice. Do I always put it into practice? No. I have my days when I'd rather punch in a formula regardless of what these experienced voices have to tell me. Some small part of me fights against trusting the advice of those who have been where I want to go. What if their path led them a different way and if I follow, it will take me longer to reach my destination? But what if I don't listen and find out that they knew about a construction zone that's not on the map? A detour could delay me in more ways than I can imagine.
I'm pretty good with directions, my friend arrived on time, and I was waiting for him as planned. He had looked up the address anyway, and though I didn't take it personally, I wondered why he'd choose not to listen to the voice of experience.
I'm discovering that's how it is in the writing world. I'm thankful for those who have already been to the place I want to be and are willing to give me directions. Our paths may vary, but the goal is the same - to make a difference in this world through the written word. So I'm paying attention, trying to be teachable, and holding onto the courage to take the path I feel led to take. GPS is great, but I'd rather follow the person who's already been there, done that.