The Unbeaten Road
What it means to confuse 'faith in yourself' with 'faith in the data.'
Exactly a year ago, I was packing up my car to drive to a rental home in Denver, Colorado. My friend and I had rented the house out for the summer with intentions to taste-test mountain life. When I was packing up my car, I was stressed out. Without a moving truck, I couldn’t fit two things that I really wanted to bring with me: my foam mattress topper and my salt lamps. I made a whole ordeal of it, trying to fit both into the car via sheer force - searching ways to vacuum down a mattress topper and tightly pack salt lamps. Nothing worked. Mini-devastation fell over me. Perhaps these items seem silly for me to get so bent out of shape over anyways. They probably were. Nevertheless, I couldn’t fit either and had to give them away and move on.
Flash forward two days later: we’re arriving at the fully-furnished rental home in Colorado. Cute, cozy, and a little quirky. My friend and I chose our respective bedrooms and began to unpack our cars. My chosen room was totally empty except for a shag rug and a Murphy bed. As I unpacked, I went to the bedroom closet in search of more hangers. The near-empty closet had only two items: a foam mattress topper and a salt lamp.
At first I laughed about this and sent a photo to Colin who had witnessed my miniature meltdown when packing the car. Then, I felt a deep sense of security. As if God and The Universe were whispering in my ear that I was being guided down the right path and that all of my ridiculous worries were already divinely taken care of. Sure, you could coin this as beautiful coincidence. But, I don’t really believe in that.
Flash forward to today: a whole year later. I’m moving back home to Austin, Texas after a year of adventure. And I’m more stressed than ever about it. Things feel totally out of my control. With a move, upcoming work travel, and major book-related decisions - it’s been a challenge to focus on one thing at a time. My nervous system deregulates and I start wasting energy trying to control the wind rather than resting in the eye of the storm. So, I bring myself back to the salt lamp.
The Unbeaten Road
While reading a Joe Dispenza book, a quote really stuck out to me. I couldn’t resurface it on the Internet so I’m going to ad-lib it here:
"Faith is not believing in the road less-traveled. Faith is believing in a road that doesn't even exist yet."
And did that quote floor me. About three weeks after I read it, I got another quote emailed to me:
“There’s no walls and no ceilings as far as I know, just the echoes of scars and the unbeaten road.” -Ryn Weaver
All of these quotes about “the road” started to feel like a message being shouted at me. Maybe something I wasn’t getting, or am even still struggling with. Specifically in my writing career. Since I’ve started my journey with my second novel, I’ve had a calling about a certain way to go about publishing it.
Lately, I’ve been getting distracted with all sorts of ‘information-overload’ about the writing industry. Between agent meetings, publisher emails, and contracts: I’ve got a few different options for the route I can take with the next novel. Because of this, I’ve heavily researched each branch and have been drowning in pro/con lists. (Do pro/con lists ever do anything but slow you down and confuse your gut-feeling?) But, I’ve known in my heart what I want to do with the book since the day I started writing it.
Yet, I still find myself with thoughts like these:
There’s no evidence that this idea could be successful
I need proof that someone else has done it before before I take the risk
Someone in the industry needs to approve of the idea I have or it isn’t valid
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Confusing Vanity for Validity
When I feel lost, I read back my journals. For this specific issue I’ve been having, I went back to the conception date of my second novel and started reading about the hopes and dreams that I had for the work itself. And I noticed they were a lot less “me” focused. For example, here’s a few phrases I used in my journal over a year ago when I was dreaming up this idea:
“I want the novel to offer a new perspective to the industry….”
“God and The Universe want the world to have this piece of art…”
“The work itself is going to be seen as fresh and unique…”
As time has gone on and the execution date has gotten closer and closer my vision has shifted. It’s become less about the art and the impact and more about me:
“I’m going to execute X amount of sales with this option versus X amount of sales with the other publishing option...”
“I need a guaranteed route to at least X amount of readers…”
“This contract offers me cooler events and more high-profile places than if I go with my gut…”
“Doing a book signing here would make for a cool picture…” (Seriously, I have had this thought.)
And I’m thinking all of this shit while the whole world is screaming at me: Hey, you know that road that doesn’t exist yet? The one you keep thinking about? There’s no data behind it. Like none. No guarantees. But, you should probably go for it. Something works out that direction.
But still, I’m analyzing historical data for every other option possible. Why? Because I've lost faith in the outcome. Instead, I’ve replaced my dreams for the vision of vanity instead of focusing on the impact of the original idea. It’s become more about wagering my name than about the work. Which makes for a very ineffective strategy.
Renaming The Mission
For all of us, I think there’s something bigger than ourselves aligned with our passions. Some sort of universal fulfillment mission that could make the world a little bit better if you decided to follow yourself into the rabbit hole. And I think it’s so easy to confuse that idea with the idea that we, ourselves, need to be this big, shiny thing to those that look upon us as we make this life for ourselves. Because often, when we start chasing our dreams: blessing follows. Things just work out. Which can sometimes appear so shiny that we end up curtailed into a pompous point of view of: What does my passion do for me? Rather than going back to the purity of where it was born from.
Let The Salt Lamp Be Your Guide
I’m a firm believer that behind every big impact is a unique and impressionable story. The one-size-fits-all shoe that we try to shove our life goals into doesn’t ever feel comfortable to walk in. Yet, we try anyways.
We say we have faith in ourselves, but we don’t. We have faith in a tried and true path that we’ve seen work out for other people. And we have faith we can recreate that same path with our name on it. We do not instead, opt to follow our own undocumented and unproven journey to let things play out for us. That would be risky. And we like double-guarantees.
We’ve confused faith in ourselves for faith in “analytical proof” - when the two have no real correlation. Believing in yourself enough to take that next step is always going to feel like you’re out in the wilderness with a machete. Forging your way into an unknown world, hoping your instinct was right. Faith requires risk, despaired ambition, and a lot of unknown. It’s leaving behind the guaranteed salt lamp, knowing life is going to provide for you another in some weird and unexpected way.
Faith in ourselves is trusting that we can make life beautiful, exciting, and incredible by just taking that next step forward.
And if we do it right, nothing will go as planned. Surprisingly, it’s better.
“We should never wait for science to give us permission to do the uncommon; if we do, then we are turning science into another religion.”
― Joe Dispenza
If you’re new here - hello! It’s so nice to see you. I really appreciate you supporting my work and letting me hang out in your inbox. I’m a small thriller author that started the LWB Project on a whim as a way to stay in touch with my fiction readers. It’s instead become a place where I can share nonfiction about my life, ideas, and author journey with the hopes you might gain something from it. We’re all sort of on this ride together. Thanks for being here. Can’t wait to get to know you better!