Walking the Roads

Today’s guest blog comes from Melissa Heath-Lee. Her short story, “Sour Luck” will be featured in Issue 13 of The Quotable.

Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else.” This quote gets changed around a bit, depending on the source, but the gist is always the same. I didn’t immediately recognize this as a statement on goal setting, that if you don’t aim for a particular goal, you might not like your results. Recently, though, the full meaning hit me in a major way as I trekked, lost, through the streets of Bricktown in Oklahoma City.

I was headed to a conference. My work had been unfocused as of late, and in similar form, I had signed up for the conference at the last minute. The hotel was completely booked, so I was staying at another place a mile away. No problem, I could use the walks to clear my head. Knowing it was predicted to be the most frigid weekend of an already colder-than-normal winter, I packed boots, gloves and my extra-long scarf.

After securing directions from the concierge, I headed out into the tundra, determined to start a new chapter in my life – again. It wasn’t the first time I’d gone off the rails a bit. What can I say? I get distracted. I let life and all its obstacles get in my way. When the computer crashes, I bemoan my luck and inability to work, ignoring for the moment that I’ve always preferred to write longhand. From the death of my blue ALL-CAPS typewriter in second grade until my first word processor in college, I did all of my writing that way, long and scrawling in notebooks, binders and assorted scraps of napkins and post-its.

When times are hard, I can’t afford to send off submissions and enter writing contests. When I’m stable financially, I’m way too busy to write like I should… There’s an endless cycle of barricades and excuses and – well Life. Like bad directions that take you far out of your way on the coldest day of the year, like a hotel with a new name that no one seems to have heard of before, like an icy brick street that takes you down in the middle of an intersection.

So as I continued on to my conference that day I had made a decision. I wasn’t going to let Life get in my way anymore. I was going to make time to write consistently. I was going to enjoy it, even the pieces I would later trash. I was going to use Life’s hurdles as fodder for my work. I was going to remind myself constantly that the only way to be a successful writer is to WRITE, and taking any other path would not get me where I wanted to go.

As I passed the American Banjo Museum, I finally neared my destination. Music was piping into the street. “How many roads must a man walk down…” And I laughed out loud, knowing I would write about that later.