In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott describes the process of writing to that of watching a Polaroid develop. Once the photo has been taken the image remains unclear for what often feels like a painstakingly long time.
As with writing it’s only the faint shadows of a story that first emerge. The image and words are monotone and lacking in details but with perseverance, and in my case often, frustrations, the arduous process slowly starts to reveal a complete picture with stunning details, vivid colors and a scene that you couldn’t have even imagined.
When you try and look at the Polaroid before it’s fully developed or finish a story without working it out and giving it the time it deserves then you miss out on much of the detail that gives the piece life.
I can’t help but think that this analogy also works with traveling too, probably because I’ve been doing a lot of it lately and while reading this part of the book I was sipping Rum Punch while the Caribbean sun wrapped me warmly. I give you permission to roll your eyes in my general direction.
With each recent trip I assigned the adventure an already formed Polaroid without my even realizing it. I had set aside expectations and pre-conceived notions of what I should expect and what I planned to glean from the trip before I had even packed my bags.
On many of my recent trips I spent the first few days frustrated that the reality didn’t resemble the image that my Polaroid so clearly displayed. I fussed over failed expectations and tried my best to control the outcome until I finally realized (and realized again, sometimes it takes me awhile to learn a lesson) that I need to allow this experience to tell me it’s story rather than force one on it.
Once I allowed myself to simply experience I was open to changing of plans, fully experiencing the beauty of that place and the differences of culture. I was able to clearly listen to the story of the trip and the blurry scenes of the Polaroid began to reveal themselves into an image that exceeded my previous shallow expectations.
While I realize that it is nearly impossible not to enter in without some expectations, my hope for future trips is that I can quickly forget my Polaroid in order to make way for the one that is yet to be revealed.