Sunday I went letterboxing. Letterboxing, for those of you who might not know, is like going on a treasure hunt in the woods. You have a map, and hopefully a compass, and you search for hidden boxes that contain rubber stamps, which you then stamp into your notebook. I had volunteered to lead a Girl Scout letterboxing expedition this week, and since I truly could get lost in my own home, I thought it might be wise to cheat and do the route in advance.
I took my daughter and the slobbering beast and we set off. We were under a time constraint, and at first I step-marched us through the woods at a brisk pace. And then we came to the first cache and couldn’t find the stamp and the normally benign Harley decided to terrify an adorable fluffy intact German Shepherd puppy for absolutely no rational reason that we could see, and the day kind of started going to hell. (Strange man holding the leash: “Wow. He looks really strong.” Me, holding leash and tree: “Yes, he is. Please leave us now.”)
But the sun was shining after what seems like an eternity of New England winter, and I was with my nine-year-old daughter, who is growing up and away too fast, so I gave up on the quest and just enjoyed the time with her. And then miraculously, we discovered that one of us had been reading the map wrong. (Hint: The nine-year-old was not at fault.) And then we (okay, she) figured out where the first cache was, and from there the path was clear.
Writing, I think, is a lot like letterboxing. There’s no guarantee of success at the end, no promise of a treasure box of riches or a spot on the best seller list. If you write, the best thing you can hope for is that you enjoy it, that you find your way from one plot point to another, that the story unfolds beneath you in a way that makes sense. And then, if you’ve worked hard and are very, very lucky, the rest may come. But it’s the journey that will matter either way.