The screen in the corner blinks from 4:00 to 3:59. Glass shatters in the distance. Tense music fills the small room. An ominous voice warns us of the consequences if we don’t succeed in stealing back a painting before the museum opens. We gather up the final clues, solving them as we go. Another minute down. A stuck door.
Then we are free, the timer frozen just under two minutes as we laugh in exhilaration and relief.
That feeling of standing outside the escape room, having solved all the puzzles thrown at us, is just about the best feeling I’d ever experienced. But without the previous hour of tension, teamwork, and doubt, escaping would only have been another action.
It was the challenge that brought us together and developed us more than the actual result.
What was true in the escape room is true of life. And true of the writing life.
Endings are overrated
We sit down and plot a book. Create a theme. Write it. Rewrite. A year of work, or two or three. Then, in a single day, we present it to the world. Others get to read it. We hope they like it.
It’s a very discouraging way to live.
If people like the book, it’s still a single point after months or years of work. One moment to carry us through the next months or years before we get another like it.
If they don’t like our book, then it’s even worse because all that time was spent on nothing.
If we just live for these endings—these checkpoints which pass so much quicker than they come, then most of our lives will turn into a weary blur. When we look back, all we’ll see are a few trophies glittering in a vast desert that passed when we weren’t looking.
It’s in the march that true victory is found
Life is in the tests that change us. The perseverance through slumps in writing or discouraging moments in life. We have hope in our destination, but it’s in the journey that we actually live.
It’s in all those times ‘between’ that we make memories. Help friends. Laugh and weep. Grow.
Long ago I heard a saying that the mountaintops are exhilarating, but it’s in the valleys that things actually flourish. I’d add to that by saying that the climbs and descents are the main reason for the mountaintop’s exhilaration.
If one only had to step out the door to see the mountain top, or wake up to find their completed book by their bed, it would be cool. But we’d have missed all the ways we grow while we accomplished the task ourselves.
Enjoy the here and now
This is life. The moments that make each day. Life isn’t about a book. Or getting the next draft done. Or people leaving five-star reviews.
Life is about living.
These destinations are something we should be aiming for, of course. Otherwise one will tend to wander in circles. Completed projects are exciting checkpoints in life and should be celebrated.
But we must not focus on them so much that the rest of the world fades away and becomes nothing more than a means to an end.
Even as we live and work through struggles and trials, remember they make us who we are. They make life what it is.
We hope in our destination. But our victory is in the march.
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