Traveling Narratives

Moon Doorway.jpg

I’m currently in the middle of a cross-country road trip, driving from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and modeling along the way. Because of this, I’m getting lots of texts from home, almost every day. “Where are you headed to next?” “Are you having fun?”

First, let me say that yes, I’m having a lot of fun. This is the trip of a lifetime. I’m making art and seeing friends I wouldn’t otherwise get to visit. I’m traveling through new states, and going all the way to the other side of the country just to stick my toes in the ocean. And I get to do it on my own schedule, booking work and lodging along the way with no solid return date. It’s a dream come true.

But there are some downsides. I expected to miss my partners terribly. And I do. But what I didn’t expect was to I miss my writing.

I’m still writing some from the road, as this blog post should show. I’m trying to pull a bit of a Kerouac. But I was writing more than “some” at home; I was writing a lot. Hours every day. Basically, whenever I wasn’t running my modeling business, I was writing. I’ve been enjoying the process immensely, but I was still surprised to miss it. Why? Because writing is work. Good, fulfilling work, but still, in the end, work. I thought I would have enjoyed a bit of a break—after all, I have to make myself work when I’m home, rather than fall into the easy temptations of bad TV and social media.

But it turns out that writing and road trips have a thing in common. Although there have been some amazing moments on the road, a lot of a road trip is just, well, driving. It’s work. It’s kind of drudgery. So I’m not always sure how to answer the texts about whether I’m having fun. Because I am, but it’s just not that entertaining to talk about the process.

Writing is the same way. It’s hours spent working, not just the fun of reading the finished project. So is modeling—that requires endless emails and booking tours and scheduling before I ever step in front of a camera. Same with music, which when I was playing professionally meant practicing for six hours a day. I enjoyed all these things, or I wouldn’t have done them (okay, except maybe the email. I kind of hate email).  But a major part of being a model, musician, or writer doesn’t look at all like what people expect.

The key to success is finding drudgery you enjoy.

I think the key to success, if there even is such a thing, is finding drudgery you enjoy. And luckily, I enjoy driving. And apparently, writing.

I’ve found we often do ourselves a disservice in the drudgery department. Instead of enjoying the process, we tell ourselves oversimplified narratives, focusing on the final outcome, or the challenges. The colorful, remarkable points that make engaging stories. And worse, we seem to expect them from others—like the texts asking whether I’m having fun. These narratives capture all the highs and lows, but they skip all the work that actually makes the thing happen. It’s the bullet points. It’s seeing snow glistening on the continental divide as far as your eye can see, and skipping over the four hours of driving that got you there.

Highs and lows are not how you build a modeling career, or run a blog for three years. It’s not how you drive across the U.S. either.

So when I answer my texts from the road, I’ll make sure to tell them about my latest adventure. Because I truly am excited about it. But maybe I can convey some sense of the real magic of the road trip too—all that time to drive and think.