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Navigating versus Drifting

A number of years ago, my wife and I were returning from a trip up north and were cruising along somewhere down I-75 in Ohio. We had a dinner appointment in Tennessee, but we were making good time and would have plenty of time to get there in time to freshen up first.


We exited, followed the truckers (they always know the shortcuts, don’t they?) through a little town, and then came to a red light. On the other side of the light the road split at a Y. The truckers were all going to the left, but that was away from the interstate. Could that be right? We debated what to do.

Just as the light turned green, I noticed a AAA office on the left. AHA! I jerked the car into the turn lane and darted across oncoming traffic and into the AAA office. They could tell us what to do!

The representatives there explained that an accident involving a chemical truck had occurred about 15 miles farther south on I-75, and traffic would not move for hours until it was cleaned up. They directed us back to the main street and to the right at the Y. We followed their directions and spent an hour or so meandering along a picturesque, bucolic two-lane back road with almost no traffic before finally returning to the interstate. We arrived at our destination just in time for our appointment. Who knows where we might have ended up had we followed the crowd of truckers.

I’ve often thought of that incident when I contemplate our life’s journey. Some people merely drift through life; others navigate.

The drifters have no fixed plan (destination). They never act purposefully because they have no definite purpose; they merely react to whatever happens. That’s how the biblical character Samson lived for most of his life. Only at the end did he act with a definite purpose, but it ended so tragically. What might he have accomplished for good had he navigated rather than drifting?

Those who navigate through life, however, have a plan, a purpose, a calling on which they act. They have a fixed destination and, using the tools available to them, they move steadily toward it. If they happen to get off track occasionally, they get back on track as soon as they realize their error.

We have all the tools needed to navigate this life, if we’ll only avail ourselves of them.

We all have within us a “moral compass,” our conscience, which convicts us when we do what we know is wrong. But the conscience operates only on what has been programmed into it. If we haven’t been taught correctly, the conscience can lead us astray. It can be wrong, deceptive, weak, even seared and useless. So it’s not always wise to “let your conscience by your guide.” Like a GPS, it’s only as good as the “software” we’ve loaded into it.


To be truly successful in life, including in our writing, we must avail ourselves of these tools. Rather than merely drifting along with all the other junk in the stream, we should trust and use our God-given “instruments” to navigate through life.

Fellow writers, do you have a plan, a destination for your writing? Are you working daily toward that goal? Or are you merely drifting?

Think about it!

#writing #reading #teaching #writers #advice #books #publishing #Lessonslearned

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©2020 by Dennis L. Peterson