It takes action. It takes logic. it takes perseverance. And it takes courage.
Granted, my experience with labyrinths is pretty much restricted to a yearly corn maze adventure around Halloween and enjoying some James Dashner, and his book The Maze Runner on a cold wintery day, but from what I do know, there are a couple hypotheses I can make.
1) You don’t get out of a labyrinth by sitting curled up in a corner with your laptop, sucking your thumb for fear of trying, and resolving to tacet compliance after a few consecutive “failed” attempts. And, then complain you failed, and you can’t help anyone, not even yourself. Labyrinths are made to focus you, and make you better.
2) By treating each goal (e.g. “publishing my book”) like a labyrinth, you stop hopelessly flailing at possibilities and are forced to think logically about where you have come from, where you are, and where you have yet to go.
Admittedly I’m being rather hard on you as writers, but to follow a cliché: it’s because I see the potential that can be reached when you take the same approach to your writing career as you would a labyrinth. So stand up, grab a bit of gusto and let’s take this crazy and confusing walk together for a few minutes. If you’re not with me, then stop right here, or I will make you cry.
To the first point, how are you supposed to navigate a labyrinth if you don’t make an effort? A few people have been very honest on our blog about sitting on their writing out of fear or uncertainty in themselves and this is incredibly admirable and brave of you to admit. I commend you. But I know there are many more of us out there doing that same thing. It seems like a long rather painstaking process that might not lead us where we really want to go. What if we get lost along the way? What if we just get stuck and never see our goal accomplished? What is the point in putting in all that effort?
Reality Check: You WILL get lost. You WILL get stuck and see dark corners and challenges that truly seem insurmountable. But there is ALWAYS a point to the effort. You learn to lead yourself.
In a labyrinth, every attempt you make to reach the exit (your goal)- if you keep track of it- might seem like a failure but in reality it is one more attempt that acts to teach you that what you tried in that specific instance was unsuccessful. So, you know not to try that exact same thing again. Don’t be stubborn, and learn. The labyrinth will not be changing for you. Be smart enough to know that sometimes we have to make subtle or even dramatic changes to the course we were taking in order to truly reach our goal. Maybe you only took one wrong turn… but then again, maybe you took every wrong turn and you’re currently on the exact opposite side of the exit. “That’s okay,” you tell yourself, “I know that what I want isn’t here, so I can explore other options.”
To the second point, by treating each goal you have like its own individual labyrinth, you avoid crossover and inefficiency. We can become complacent and think that just because something worked for us once or worked for someone else it will work for us- and if you want to be a leader in whatever field you are in, this won’t work. To quote one of my favourite “break up books,” “You are not the exception, you’re the RULE.” Occasionally we get lucky and take every right turn on our first try. But the labyrinth changes for every goal, so you’re only wasting time thinking it will be as easy taking the exact same route every time.
I know. That’s more work. But shortcuts are like winning the lottery.
There is OF COURSE a chance you could win. But if you do happen to catch that lucky break, understand that the mathematics of probability say that you are no more likely to win again just because you won the last time. Challenge yourself to map out a different route for each goal (even if the differences are only slight). Not only are you more likely to achieve your goal in a timely fashion, but you’re more likely to grow from the experience.) This is the way to write, and the way to lead.
Have I lost you yet?
The good news is that this labyrinth of a post is over and hopefully you learned something along the way. Don’t be afraid to take those first few steps towards whatever your goal may be. Don’t forget that logic and perseverance are your friend when you are trying to accomplish your goal. And of course, courage is the only way you will find the strength to not only start the pursuit of your goals but continue travailing that sometimes dark, confusing, and overwhelming labyrinth to the eventually light of your own accomplishment. Then show others how you did it. It’s easy.