Academy for Wayward Authors: Why a Map Isn’t the Solution for Your Creative Journey

The map is not the territory. The compass is not your direction.

Is this a navigation class here at the Academy?

Sort of.

I was recently at a conference where the speaker asked, “How many of you are here for the map?”

The audience’s arms shot into the air as if the speed and energy would reveal it faster.

Then came the deep sigh of disappointment as the author shared that the presentation would be on her journey, not the map.

It was a powerful moment that many were able to get value from, but others walked away disappointed. They just wanted the map and checklist.

To Do List

Here’s the issue.

Navigation tools will not deliver a successful trip if you don’t know the destination.

Your journey to the destination is where the joy manifests, but you’ll never get there if you don’t know where you want to go. You will never feel fulfilled.

You may achieve milestones such as earning six, seven, or eight figures, but you’ll never be satisfied.

We have already talked about how a dollar figure is a poor placeholder for what success truly means.

If you wish to have financial security driven by your book sales, you must get clear on your version of financial security first.

It’s likely much closer than you think because it has more to do with reducing your debt and having a cash reserve to cover you if a rainy day comes your way.

Once you have a destination, the map helps to evaluate where you are in relation to the destination.

“The map is not the territory” is a reminder that the model isn’t reality. A model is an imperfect tool to help us navigate reality.

In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller published the definitive world map that included the discovery of America.

Scores of successful expeditions used this map to return to previously explored locations, discover more land, and redefine future maps.

From our perspective, Waldseemüller’s map is comical.

Any “publishing” map you receive is just someone’s interpretation of the landscape and how it should be navigated.

Is the latest map to “publishing riches” the 1507 version of the world… while you’ve been treating it like a GPS locator?

If you follow my lead, you’ll find it’s not about following my map but becoming an explorer. You will need to understand how to use a compass for yourself and become your own cartographer.

Map and compass

A compass and a map allow you to reference where you think you are now by knowing the direction you are going in on a graphic representation of the territory you plan to traverse.

Compasses point north. North becomes a reference that you can use to orient yourself in the direction you want to go. If you want to go north, great—but you can also go west by knowing north.

Of course, it’s the journey that matters. The destination helps us understand the journey. We travel in an undiscovered land.

After working with so many successful authors, I’ve observed their biggest discovery happens when they understand the WHY of writing as a vocation. That’s when they embrace the work as an endless journey rather than an urgent hustle to reach a milestone.

If you are still doing your FitMind work, you may now understand why you are seeking your particular destination. That knowledge is what makes the most significant difference because it gives you direction.

With YOUR destination in mind, does the map you are looking at (mine or someone else’s) help you to get where YOU want to go?

Read: How Do You Know? Challenging Authority With Informed Questions