Part One – Literary Allusion
Robert Frost was a tricksy bastard.
The road not taken? The path less travelled by? More like trolling generations of poetry students and Instagram influencers.
There were always two paths.
There was always at least A path.
It just so happened he happened to take the one with more leaves on it.
Others have been there before you.
Someone has always been there ahead of you.
And that’s ok.
I’m definitely ok with that.
You don’t have to hack your way through uncharted territory because there wasn’t a way there before. There’s probably a really good reason why the path doesn’t go that way. The path of least resistance is a good starting point as a writer. Why make it harder for yourself?
I walked a writer’s path starting out with brief sentences and paragraphs. It was where I wanted to learn how to craft something. I spent a year writing flash fiction and getting feedback via a writers’ website. I wrote blog posts, worked collaboratively on projects, before feeling comfortable to write alongside someone and work on a novel. Still feel like the novel is beyond me whereas a novella is more in line with where my writing sits. A novel could be further down the path.
If I lay out my current projects on the table, what path would I take? Can I come back to something or will it be left behind?
Part Two – Personal Anecdote
There is a creek down the street from where I grew up, and where my parents still live, and I spent many hours down by the water either by myself or with my younger brother and our dog.
A dirt track ran beside the creek and we would often follow it until we could go no further. Then we climbed down the rock faces and kept boulder-hopping down the creek.
No phones. No recourse should we get injured. Mum said she wasn’t worried unless the dog came home alone.
I had the freedom to walk the same path over and over and over again: through summer heat keeping an eye out for snakes (this is Australia, after all), winter coldness, and during and after rainfall when the trickle of a waterfall turned into a brown rush.
It was my querencia of solace and familiarity. This was my happy place as a solitary explorer. I could walk the path over and over, knowing where I was at each turn and curve even, as storms and nature put obstacles in the path or branches hung lower. There was always a path visible, even when it was overgrown and almost forgotten about.
I used a setting from one area of the creek in a short story, The Cicada Clock, first published in Tincture Journal.
I took my daughters down there recently, and it was the first time I’d been down there in perhaps fifteen years, maybe even twenty years. We walked the path, at times hidden by long grass or fallen trees, and explored together. For me it was revisiting a space I inhabited so much as a child and teenager, and a chance to introduce my girls to a location meaningful to me. I lead and they followed. Or one of them would go ahead to see what was around the corner or over the rise or behind the tree.
We shared the path.
We may never return there.
Part Three – Comic Juxtaposition
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand: one belonging
to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of
his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he
questioned the LORD about it:
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:“Sand people always ride single-file, to hide their numbers.”
Part Four – Personal Application
Standing on the shoulders of giants involves learning how to climb their backs; to scramble up the terrain of their legs, back and shoulders, and clamber around their head to get a good seated position. Only then can you see further.
I’m not a leader, an innovator, an intrepid explorer; so many others have been there before me. Instead, I will follow. I’ll be following you on social media, making notes of your wisdom and insights. I’ll ask questions on occasions; watch your mistakes and know I’ll probably make them myself. I’ll be the one tagging along, just a little behind and looking over your shoulder (when I’m not perched on it), to work out how it’s done.
And while we’re travelling along the path, whether it’s a dirt track, a paved footpath, a broad highway, there is always a place to leave graffiti. Footpaths, overpasses, highways, tunnels.
But on my path, I learned a valuable lesson. I learned to say, “Yes.”
Yes, to making the decision to write.
Yes, to writing pieces of flash fiction.
Yes, to writing a blog.
I said “Yes” to opportunities.
Yes, to writing a blog for a writers’ website.
Yes, to contributing to thematic anthologies.
Yes, to the idea of an epistolary novel.
Yes, to another collaborative novel.
Yes, to a writing cooperative.
Yes, to trying something a little different through our writers’ collective.
Not all opportunities are correct. Sometimes it is important to say, “No” or to let a project be relegated to the rubbish.
Every writer’s path is different. The best we can do is leave notes along the way to say, “This is how I, or we, did it. It’s up to you to work out your path.”
Choose how you pave, forge, or ignore the path.
And give a knowing wink to Robert Frost as you cross paths.