Somewhere in the flat, dusty expanse of New Mexico my Husband gave into the aggravation of the tedious speed limit and turned the driving over to me. Living in Texas with 70 to 80 mph speeds has spoiled us. We pulled a ‘Chinese firedrill’ so the cruising speed he’d set stuck around.
Well, sort of – for a while anyway.
As he sat in the passenger seat speculating how many times they’d have to multiply his current salary to get him to move to such a place, I dutifully pulled back onto the freeway and resumed cruising. The thing I love most about cruising is that it’s a great safety net because when I don’t pay much attention to the speedometer I often sink in speed.
However, it doesn’t stop you from going just a touch faster. In fact, as someone who hates the sudden gunning or dragging brakes on slopes, I tend to use a little gas to ease that out.
So, when maybe an hour in I crept up behind a blue VW Bug I merely slid into the passing lane and sped up to pass safely and smoothly.
Just before the next town the speed limit naturally plummeted. (Not that there was much to hit with a handful of houses fanned about a mile or more from the main road and the climate hostile to pedestrians, but that’s another story) So as we crawled through the town that blue bug just bustles right by me. I grumbled something about some people not worry much about the speed limit and slouched down in my seat.
Not far out of the town I caught up with the bug again and passed it. After several leapfrog encounters my Husband passed it off as one of those “incompatible cruising speeds”, but I didn’t bother to inform him that I had reset the cruise speed just a little higher. Nor did I mention the amount of time with my own foot on the gas.
Human nature is amazing, how we can latch onto some random person or thing to use as a benchmarker to prove we are actually making progress. Each time I passed the bug, I smugly basked in some vague sense of satisfaction, but when it passed me,… well, you know.
I’m not the road rage type so it didn’t make me angry but it did turn in to something of my own private little game. Okay, slightly competitive game.
My husband recommended that I just let the blue bug get away and relax, but I didn’t want too. The game actually kept me engaged.
The fifth time my oldest daughter asked “How much farther?” in the last hour, my Husband didn’t even bother to consult the gps before answering.
“But that’s what you said last time. How come we aren’t closer?”
That’s when I spoke up. “Because that blue bug is in front of us! As long as it’s in front of it we’ll never make it, so there.”
My Husband laughed as I ranted on about how the bug was holding us back, mocking us. Then a red bug pulled past us. “See that? They’re multiplying!”
My daughter just stared at me, wide-eyed. (Well, at least that what I expect she did since I couldn’t actually see her. Afterall, I was supposed to be driving.)
Granted, it was half a joke, but yet partly true. My sense of progress had gotten wrapped up in something I couldn’t control, something that was very inaccurate and wasn’t even a fair comparison between vehicles.
The little blue bug had only the driver. I was driving an 8 passenger van stuffed with people and luggage plus a full car-top carrier. We were only a little ways from the hotel where we stay that night, with still another day of travel until home. I have no idea how long or far the bug would go.
Life and writing can be the same.
When you feel like you are stalled in your story, or and least progressing much slower than you would like to it is tempting to start comparing your progress to the writers around you rather than focusing on your overall goal.
As a homeschooling mother of 5 I carry a lot of responsibility with me as I move, and that naturally is going to make my story be produced more slowly. It is not an excuse, it is reality.
My choices have led to the vehicle I am driving and the speed I go. It does me no good whatsoever to begrudge other authors the progress they are making on their journey just because their success points out my lack of apparent progress. I don’t know what they have in their car, and what they have had to put up with on their journey.
For me to truly feel successful, I need a clear understanding of where I am headed and what my goal is. Otherwise it is easy to loose track of all the great progress I have made, and get obsessed with being in front of a little blue bug.
So what about you? How do you get a sense of progress?