Embracing the Mystery

Amidst the turmoil of last week, Ruth Ayres posted her latest writing invitation– a prompt to respond to the word “write”. In her prompt, she wrote, “This is a reminder that it’s okay to write, even when you don’t know what to think.”

As I started responding in my notebook, I quickly found myself thinking of my recent rededication to morning pages. I’ve been working hard to write three pages a day and to embrace a stream of consciousness approach to the whole exercise. Soon I found myself writing: “Write even when you don’t know where you’re going.” Then, just like that, I was remembering Mystery Drives.

DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer: Maine

Long ago, when our children were young, we used to occasionally set out on what we called “Mystery Drives.” We’d start by piling all the kids in the car. Then, we’d decide on an order: oldest to youngest, youngest to oldest, alphabetical by name or whatever. At the end of our driveway, we’d stop and ask the first child, “Which way?” They’d make a choice, point, and off we’d go. As we came to each intersection, we’d ask the next child, and let them select. And so on and so on. We’d continue this until we were typically out in the countryside seeing rarely visited or new sites. This was well before the days of easy GPS access and our trusted lifeline was a well-worn DeLorme atlas of Maine. We also had a compass in the car, so we knew that if worse came to worse, we could always head east.

As we drove, we discovered new views, new vistas. Sometimes. But sometimes we didn’t. And that was okay, too. Regardless of what we saw, throughout the journey there was a wonderful sense of possibility. Who knew what discovery might be around the next corner? Who knew where we might end up? I think back on those days now and wish we’d done that a bit more often.

It occurs to me that writing when you don’t know where you’re going is similar to a Mystery Drive. You just keep making choices when you get to an intersection. You may end up driving over familiar ground, you may discover fascinating new vistas –intriguing ideas, untapped memories–or you may even become lost. The point is the journey and the open nature of it–Just making your way through the terrain, one turn at a time. Eventually you’ll figure out how to find your way home, you’ll have some new experiences under your belt, and perhaps you’ll be all the richer for having set out not knowing where you were headed.

25 thoughts on “Embracing the Mystery

  1. britt says:

    As uptight about time and schedules as I can be, I truly hope to be this type of parent to my children. It wasn’t until I read your post that I recognized the connection to my writing life – how I mostly become paralyzed when I don’t know where I’m going.

    Thank you for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for making the connection between the morning papers and a mystery drive! My husband and I enjoy driving to see the countryside with “no particular place” to go. I’m also trying to write 3 pages every morning. I’m struggling to fill those pages but your connection has me viewing the task in a new vein. Tomorrow the writing will be different.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy Ellerman says:

    I agree! What a visual metaphor for writing. I imagine that your children loved those mystery drives!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. margaretsmn says:

    I just read Christy Wyman’s post about writing your name over and over when you don’t know what to write. Then I turned left and came to your post. What will happen behind door number 3? I love this writing as discovery. I want to steal that driving idea for grandkid’s camp.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Eufrey Domingo says:

    Great post, Molly! And a good lesson to take to heart. Sometimes you just have to do the work even though you don’t know what to do. That’s awesome that you’re doing the morning pages. Maybe I need to start doing them again, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Hey, Eufrey! How fun to see your name pop up here! I have been writing in the morning for ages, but haven’t done the dedicated to three pages thing in a LONG time. Now, I’m participating in an Artist’s Way group, and I’m giving it a go. Fingers crossed! Happy writing!


  6. Julie says:

    What a fabulous metaphor for writing, and a wonderful way to think about writing when you feel stuck. I’m thinking about how much my kids would love Mystery Drives, especially in these days of so much less travel.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. cvarsalona says:

    Molly, your mystery drive sounds like a wonderful experience. I remember when my family was young and we went on car ride trips only using maps. I often think of this when we lose our way even with the GPS. You painted a marvelous road to follow when writing. Thanks for the inspiration to find a richer experience with my pen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      I think map-reading is a lost skill, Carol. I still do much better if I’ve seen a map of my destination. There’s also just something wonderful about pouring over maps and planning a journey.


  8. Gail Aldous says:

    Molly, I admire your dedication to writing three pages a day. I love this insight of your childhood mystery drives. What a great perspective to bring to your writing! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Debbie Lynn says:

    Your story was enlightening for me on both notes…encouragement to keep writing and try out ‘a mystery drive’ with my grandkids! Thanks for 2 wonderful ideas! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I sent your blog to our daughter in Mass with two boys, 6 and 8, and thought that Mystery Drives are right up their alley. Thanks for the suggestion. I would have liked to try it with our kids. But isn’t that what grandkids are for. To do the things you didn’t do with your own. You may have mentioned this, but do your morning pages come from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron? We were given the book by Canadian friends. I’ve tried morning pages, do well for three or four days, then not so well. My goal is the Don Murray dictum, at least one line a day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      You’ll have to let me know if your family tries out Mystery Drives and what they think. The morning pages are from Julia Cameron’s book. I’ve heard about her book for ages and am finally reading it along with a group. Morning writing really is a core part of my day already. This is just a shift in format. I’m rededicating to three pages for the duration and we’ll see how that goes.


  11. Nanc says:

    I so love the idea of a mystery drive and a mystery think! Right now as a country we are so on that adventure and mystery. I love your idea about 3 pages a day. XO

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Fran Haley says:

    I love the idea of a Mystery Drive. Full of possibility and discovery, so like writing. And, what a fun, safe way to pass pandemic time!

    Liked by 1 person

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