Today’s post is a guest post from my friend Shawn Smucker. Earlier this year, Shawn and his family took off on a ten-thousand mile adventure in a bus, getting a chance to see the country and meet all sorts of people. Now Shawn and his wife, Maile, have written How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp, with tales of their journey. I have to admit that in addition to being a friend, Shawn is one of my favorite writers. Perhaps I should rephrase that; he’s one of my favorite storytellers. He has a way of gently telling a story that turns ordinary experiences and encounters into extraordinary lessons for life. In the past I contributed to one of Shawn’s books, Building a Life Out of Words, which is a real honor that he would consider me worthy of writing for him. I urge you to check out Shawn’s new book and take that ten-thousand mile journey with him and his family. You’ll be glad you did.
We lost our brakes on the Teton Pass. We wandered aimlessly through New Mexico. Our bus overheated in Arizona and Nevada. We got stuck in a ditch in Virginia. We almost tipped over in South Dakota.
Taking an old blue bus for a 10,000-mile spin around the United States (with your spouse and four children in tow) contains no shortage of memorable moments. It was challenging and depressing, exhilarating and quieting, invigorating and humbling.
And it was a lot like writing.
- Both require preparation. We moved out of our house and put our stuff in storage. We packed for every season. We plotted a rough draft of our journey. We saved up money and learned a lot about the bus.
- Neither will happen if you insist on overpreparing. If you wait until conditions are perfect, you’ll never go on the adventure, because the situation will never be perfect. When we left on our trip, we didn’t have all of our financial stuff in perfect order, I didn’t have extra work lined up, and we didn’t know where we would live when we got back. Don’t let loose ends keep you from writing.
- Both require a willingness to get very uncomfortable. The most meaningful adventures will have some very good times and some very bad times. They’ll leave you reflecting on life and your place in the world. This is not always a comfortable place, and the same can be said about writing. Good writing will lead you to a place of transparency and honesty that will feel very much like racing down a mountainside without any brakes.
- Neither will happen if you are obsessed with perfection. No journey worth taking will go perfectly or according to plan. Nothing worth writing will ever come out exactly as you had imagined it. Embrace imperfection as an unavoidable outcome and then turn the key.
- Both will change your life. Adventures always leave you unchanged. Adventures take life as you previously knew it, throw life up in the air, and then laugh when nothing comes down as you expected it to. As does writing. It’s impossible to truthfully tell your perspective without introducing the possibility of massive change.
So there you go. Want to write? Want to go on an adventure?
What are you waiting for?
Shawn Smucker is the author of How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp and Building a Life Out of Words. He lives in Lancaster County, PA with his wife Maile and their four children. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook, and he blogs (almost) daily at shawnsmucker.com Maile blogs at mailesmucker.blogspot.com
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