As a fresh Driver’s Ed graduate, I remember the first time my dad asked me to take him on a drive.
Awesome! At last, I could show off my driving skills—to my dad—kind of a big deal. Mostly because the last time I’d been allowed to drive (age 10) I’d almost wrecked the tractor. But you can’t hold that against me, the steering wheel came off. Not my fault—mostly. In any case, I’d aced my driver’s test. I had this.
I got behind the wheel and held my hand out for the keys.
He turned in his seat, looked me in the eye and asked, “Do you know where you’re going?”
“Aren’t we just going up town?” Silly question, he’s the one that asked if I wanted to drive him to town. He couldn’t have forgotten already, right?
I shot my hand out, palm up, like a kid waiting for a congratulatory gumball.
He didn’t budge, instead, he asked, “Do you know which route you’re going to take?”
“Of course. I . . .” I paused, there were options. North? South? Each led to town, and each route led to more choices. Okay, so he had a point. After a moment’s thought, I recited my chosen plan.
My reward: A set of keys in my outstretched hand.
As we headed to town, (I picked the North road) he explained that no matter what, know where you’re going and plan your route—before you start the car.
It’s that advice that I find myself revisiting on a regular basis.
Getting married? Determine the destination. Know your route.
Want financial freedom? Determine the destination. Know your route.
Plan to write a book? Determine the destination. Know your route.
Now I’m not knocking any seat-of-your-pants writers. I enjoy my own fair bit of pantsing (that sounded better in my head), and I absolutely love the thrill of discovery in a free write.
But stop a moment and ask yourself, where is all that free-writing going? Are you on a road to nowhere? Idling along a nonexistent path in the cow pasture? Watch it, that’s a cowpie just waiting to happen. Oh, sh—splat.
It’s only a suggestion, but don’t knock it until you try it: Before you start that engine, before you put that pen to paper, those fingertips to keyboard . . . take some advice that has served me well: Determine your destination. Know your route.
It’s a destination that gives you purpose.
It’s a route that gives you direction.
Stop spinning your wheels. Get off that road to nowhere. Determine where you want to be at the end.
-What’s the plan for the end?
-How am I going to get there?
p.s. And if you find yourself up a road without a steering wheel, (listen up you panster’s) you’ll at least know you had a plan. After all, you can’t plan for everything—even if you ace every test.