The Novel-T of a Labyrinth

Don’t knock me until you’ve tried me.

If any of you have ever walked a labyrinth, I would enjoy hearing about your experience.

I took my first walk several weeks ago after completing a novel critique session. Will I give myself away if I tell you that it was 95% positive, but I let the 5% negative rule?  

I needed to cool my jets so I headed out for a walk and I found myself standing at the entrance to the retreat center’s labyrinth. 

I did a quick study of the overall path and started in, thinking it should be a piece of cake as I took my steps, one concisely in front of the other, around and around, following the bricked-in path. 

Sneaking peeks out my peripheral as I walked, it seemed that the center was close and I thought I’d reach it in record time—and then I came to the first blocking brick barricade. 

You have to back up here and try something else, because this way is closed to you. 

I’d been mulling over some of the critique commentary as I walked, and as I reversed my steps, looking for another path, there it was: 

Lesson No. 1: This path is exactly like writing – and finishing – a novel. 

We start into a story that’s been buzzing around our skull bone for a while and we keep putting the words down and things appear to be going amicably and oh!–we’re going to be so clever and pick this thing off in a designed timeframe inside our head bone. The path winds along with completion j-u-s-t around the next curve—there’s a brick blockade (that really is only as big as we allow it to be—but it takes us a while to get this through our head)—and the second lesson presents itself: 

So near—yet so far. You’re going to have to try another path, my dear. You haven’t got it right yet.

At one point I stopped because I came upon a doggy pile, and I thought: “How disgusting that someone would leave that here,” but a closer look revealed it to be a dried clump of sod from a lawn mower. 

Lesson No. 3 – Always take a second—or third–look before you judge too quickly. 

On and on I went—stopping to examine patches of clover—just in case there was a 4-leafer in there.  

Lesson No. 4: Do not look for, nor expect easy miracles to show up before you. 

So I paused again, restudying where I was in relation to where I wanted to be thinking I might be getting close to the center, only to discover I have to follow the  large circular swath completely back out and away from the targeted zone because there’s no way I can get into the center from where I’m standing. 

It seems counterproductive and it feels taunting and cruel. 

“But—I was almost there!” 

No. You were not. 

For those of you reading this who haven’t tried to write a novel, this is what it feels like. 

You think you’ve finally nailed it, and then in comes new and different comments, and you know you have to think on them for a while. Mull them over—see if there is merit—or not. 

And there are times you want to quit. You want this damnedable task you picked out for yourself to be over.  

But you don’t have the courage or the sense to quit.  

My measured stepping continued and I actually started to feel better. I became aware of how unaware I’d been to even the bird song going on around me, and I considered it a real accomplishment for me to become that unaware for a while. 

Pretty soon it seemed like I was getting closer to the center and would finish the winding path, and there it was again—hidden by some grass—yet another brick blockade. 

Nope. If you step over us, that’s cheating.

I didn’t want to cheat so I picked out a different route. 

By now, the whole pattern became clear to me, and it felt normal to nearly finish and encounter yet another obstacle. 

I continued the methodical stepping, glancing around to see how far I’d come—maybe peek ahead to see how much farther, and then I realized I was only a few steps away from the center. I’d made it. 

I was breathing slower and calmer. I would honor the 95% and contend with the 5%. 

And I was so glad I didn’t cheat—or quit. 

I turn around to begin the path out, and as I wind and turn and step my way back from whence I came I’m thinking, “Yeah! You got yourself into it and you can get yourself out of it.” 

There’s a reason for all of it. Trust me. 😉

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