dreamstimecomp_17994561Writing is like flying standby.

My good friend Michele, just days away from making the journey to a Third World country this way, was a bit too frazzled about it to make the correlation, but I bet my fellow writers will get it.

Since a round trip ticket can often be close to two grand, Michele was relying on a “buddy pass” from a pilot friend to fly from Jacksonville to Atlanta, Atlanta to Johannesberg, South Africa. From there, she would need to find and board an unknown bus for the several hour ride to Lesotho, a separate, landlocked country within South Africa. All this traveling — by herself.  She would then meet her daughter, Annie, and some of Annie’s fellow Peace Corps volunteers at the border for the drive to Laribe, the small village where Michele would spend the next 20 days.

I get nervous for an overnight trip to Tallahassee. I plan out what to wear each day. I pack and repack a week in advance. I leave instructions the length of small novels for pet sitters, and I rise at 2:00 a.m. the morning of. That’s if I fall asleep in the first place.

But, if you find yourself unable to plan, like Michele’s on a wing and a prayer type journey, the rule is: you gotta have faith. And this is kind of like writing.

Time and time again, my “just okay” plans are laid to rest by some much better inspiration that hits me in the final hour. Sometimes, I don’t even have a so-so idea and I’m staring at an empty screen on the Saturday night before a new blog post. And any writer will tell you, it’s waiting for the inspiration to hit, much like waiting to be told to board, that can be sheer agony.

This is not to say you writers out there should wait till you have a brilliant thought before sitting down to write. You’ve got to face the empty screen, like Michele had to show up at the airport, if there’s to be any hope of getting off the ground. I’d never write anything great, if I didn’t force myself to focus on churning out something just okay. And it’s not just writing, but life, that works this way.

I got a text from Michele on her way to Johannesberg as she took off. It was a picture of her holding up a champagne glass with the words “Yeah, baby. First class!” Things are often the scariest just before turning out wonderful. Face your fears.

Michele in Africa
Michele in Africa