In Vila do Conde, Portugal, on my second morning of walking the Camino de Santiago, I am struck again by the pragmatic faith in this little village. There are no guard rails on the footbridges, no warning signs, no walk/don’t walk signals. I stand stupidly on the sidewalk, longing to cross the busy street to the café I see on the other side.
I watch, horrified, as other pedestrians simply step out into the traffic — just throw themselves into mortal danger with no apparent fear. I’m equally amazed when the zooming cars brake for them. Just stop, in the middle of the road, to let them pass. And wave merrily as they speed off again.
Not me. I stand on the curb, hyperventilating. I want bedrock assurances that the cars will stop before I put myself in peril. The drivers stare at me impatiently— what am I waiting for? Certainty? Perfection?
This is how I write, sometimes. Standing on the curb, immobilized by fear, watching others take the risks. Clutching my story idea or my manuscript against my chest, keeping it safe from the dangers of rejection — or worse, obscurity.
The drivers whiz by, reminding me there’s no such thing as perfect timing. No substitute for taking that first scary step, and trusting the Universe to know what it’s doing.
The cafe across the street beckons, tempting me with fragrant coffee and creamy cheese pastry things I can’t pronounce. I’m starving, and I have 18 miles to walk today on my way to Santiago.
I take hold of my courage and sprint into the traffic, looking neither right nor left, keeping my eyes focused on the prize in front of me.
I press “publish” on a new post, I press “send” on a pitch to an editor, I crank out 1,000 more words on my work-in-progress.
What kind of world is this? Where you signal your intention to move forward, you step one foot out into danger, and suddenly, your path is clear? Where you don’t wait for perfect timing— you just face forward, keep writing and just believe?
It’s a writer’s world. Stop waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect adjective, the perfect title. It doesn’t exist. Step out there, and watch your path appear.Trust that all these forces, completely unknown to you, completely out of your control, will see to your safety.
And have some pie. You deserve it.