Writing Tip: Embrace the Scenic Route

My dad loved taking the scenic route. We could never call it a “short cut” because his deviations always took longer than the conventional ones. You see, as a lumberjack who worked all over the state of Indiana, he knew the backroads and cut throughs. Sometimes he diverted off the highways because of traffic hold ups — accidents or tractors filling both lanes of the interstate. But other times he chose to go off the beaten path simply because he felt like it.

These meanderings irritated me. While Dad saw it as choosing to take the scenic route, I saw it as wasted time. Not to mention, having lived my entire life in Northern Indiana, those routes seemed more mundane than picturesque. I mean if you’ve seen one wooden barn, aging farmhouse, woods off in the distance, field planted with row upon row upon row of corn or soy beans, you’ve seen them all, right? And by then, it felt like I had in fact seen. them. all.

When I look back at my journey to becoming a published author, I realize I had a highway mentality, similar to those days when I’d roll my eyes from the backseat of the car as Dad would turn off U.S. 31. When I graduated from college, I just knew I’d whip up a novel that would be published and my career as an author would be well under way in my mid-20s. Or, if I was taking my time, at least by my 30s.

But it didn’t work out that way. First, marriage and a mortgage and a day job happened. Then my first child, complete with colic. And my second. And my third, again with colic. Do I need to mention the exhaustion and brain fog, or can that be assumed?

Through those years, I kept writing, sometimes in the form of short stories, blogs, or articles. At other times I wrote only for clients, producing advertising copy, press releases, and marketing materials. A few times I even participated in NaNoWriMo, flying by the seat of my pants to knock out a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. It was quite an accomplishment, but those manuscripts turned out to be nothing more than practice.

Then, a full twenty years after graduating college, I reached the long-dreamed-of milestone: I signed a two-book deal with Sourcebooks for my historical fiction. That accomplishment didn’t take one or two years as I had first assumed. It took two decades.

When I realized that, I couldn’t help but wonder where the years had gone. Wonder why it had taken so long. Wonder if I hadn’t wasted too much time.

But then I thought of Dad and his scenic route. I’ve always been the traveler who wants to get to the end point as quickly and efficiently as possible. The journey is not the destination, the destination is the point! And yet, those two decades of meandering, of learning other forms of writing, of living life and gaining experiences, they were all the scenic route that made the journey even more rich and beautiful (and, sure, also frustrating at times).

I also realized that when it comes to my writing, I’m not in search of a destination. I don’t want a point at which I will arrive. I want that scenic route full of twists and turns, landscapes and markers that give me pause and appreciation as I continue journeying, never fully arriving, always moving forward. I can’t say that I’ve fully matured beyond rolling my eyes or getting frustrated when something feels too slow moving, but if Dad taught me anything it’s that sometimes the view matters more than efficiency. And, so, I choose to embrace the scenic route.

I have great news: my historical fiction novel will be available spring 2023! Don’t miss news about THE LAST CAROLINA GIRL. Subscribe to my enewsletter for updates, sneak peeks, giveaways & behind-the-scene stories of my journey to becoming a debut author.

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