“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way,” said the novelist E. L. Doctorow.
That’s some of the best advice I’ve heard—not just about writing a book, but about life in general.
Far too many people wait to make a move until they can see the entire path ahead. They want to know all the twists and turns with perfect clarity and see the precise destination before they even start walking.
Which means they stand still. They never move.
Life lights the path ahead only a few steps at a time. There’s no trailer previewing the trails ahead, and no flashlight powerful enough to show you what’s to come.
As you take each step, you go from not knowing to knowing and from darkness to light.
The more we look for a clear and well-lit path, the more we choose paths well traveled by other people and the less we can see and chart our own.
Looking back at the pivotal moments of my own life, I could never see a clear path ahead. I had some idea of where I wanted to go—to work on a space mission or to publish a bestselling book—but I didn’t quite know how I would get there.
I felt anxious about the unknowns that lay ahead. I didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel ready enough. I felt heavy—intimidated by a load that I was sure I couldn’t carry.
But I still walked. If I had waited until the path revealed itself with perfect clarity, I wouldn’t have moved.
Plus, life wouldn’t be interesting if you knew exactly what was ahead. People are in a rush to get clarity and figure it all out. But “everything all figured out” is the end. That’s when the credits roll. The movie of your life isn’t over yet. You’re still in the middle of the action, constantly evolving and expanding. If you knew what came next, you would disrupt what’s unfolding. You wouldn’t learn the lessons you need to learn.
The only way to know what comes next is to start walking—before you see a clear path.
You’ll only see a few steps ahead.
But you can make the whole trip that way.