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Stop Trying To Get Somewhere

I need to return to where I began to finish this book.

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I was never trying to get anywhere. I was just going.

Then I tasted a small degree of success. I woke up one morning and I was like, “I make enough money to travel the world from writing. I did what I set out to do.”

Then something strange happened. I had a difficult time seeing what the next step was.

My obsessive passion dissipated as I began forcing it. I then found myself trying to do something rather than just doing it. While the final destination is ultimately the same, two are very different paths. I began trying to step forward, thinking about each muscle contraction, each extension of the joint, each placement of the foot, each chapter, each sentence, each word, rather than simply sitting back and taking the ride.

The only thing that I remember about writing my first book was sitting around McDonald’s eating egg mcmuffins, hanging out in cafes drinking coffee, and watching sports documentaries. There is not one point where I recollect putting words on the page. It was as if the book materialized by magic.

I never thought it would actually be published so I never sat around imagining my name on covers or big speaking engagements or going on TV and radio. There was nothing to lose, so I just had fun.

On the New Silk Road has been very different. I can remember writing each section, almost down to the very word. I can remember reorganizing the book a half dozen times. I remember trying to be a writer rather than just writing. I remember trying to write a good book.

This is probably the worst thing a writer can do.

I believe all writers feel this way after obtaining a level of what they feel is success. I remember having a beer with Paul French in London some years ago and listening to him express doubt about the book he was working on — “They would probably give me another shot.” It blew my mind that he would even have such a thought — he was Paul French, the modern literary elite, someone who I viewed as untouchable, the winner of King of the Mountain. How could he say something like that?

I think about that now and I’m like, man, that guy was following up an international best seller. I’m following up a book that merely reviewed alright whose argument stood.

Once you know that you can do something it oddly becomes more difficult to do again.

Truly successful people tend to shy away from from acknowledging their prowess. They credit others. They diminish the importance of their work. This may come off as modesty, but I believe it is more self-preservation.

Success is stifling.

I need to go back to the bottom.

And stay there.


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Filed under: Authorship, Travel Writing

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3723 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

6 comments… add one

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  • Trevor June 10, 2019, 7:22 pm

    But where ever you are going, any road will take you there

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    • Wade Shepard June 11, 2019, 12:14 pm

      That’s what we believe! Maybe it’s right????? I guess only when we get to the end of the road will we know.

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      • Trevor June 11, 2019, 5:59 pm

        I think i got that quote wrong…. if u dt know where i r going, any road will take u there..

        but all roads lead to Rome….

      • Wade Shepard June 11, 2019, 6:51 pm

        Yeah, it’s all the same trip. Just sitting back, taking the ride.

  • Ryk Sink-Zinckh June 10, 2019, 7:59 pm

    As an abstract painter, I identify with the emotions expressed in your post. I had the privilege of opening a new art gallery with the first solo exhibition. The pressure of performing was great, and I think I held up my end pretty well. Great feedback on my work, but only one sale (high priced material). This was in 2017 July. Since then, I have shown work in several shows (locally). I feel the pressure to recreate the success of that initial arrival onto the professional scene becomes greater for me at every show. For me, it’s the feeling that I don’t want to let people that know me down. Also, I interpret not to rise to the occasion as some sort of failure of my will….. not failure of my ability, which I ‘think’ remains fairly stable over time. Just as one historical/important example, Picasso suffered from some similar phenomenon as he waged war on establishing and maintaining priorities as a married man and supporter of political causes. Self-doubt is an encroaching ‘double-edged’ sword, pushing our will toward greater things, yet at the expense of psychic harmony.
    By the way, on your last comment to me, I’ll offer I’m in no way a wordsmith or established writer. My grammar/syntax/whatever must appear lame or pedestrian. My thoughts/ideas as a routine matter, however, to a large degree remain essentially orbital or ‘out of the box’. As an artist, you know creativity takes on many forms. Lacking in one area doesn’t disallow success in another. I am as driven as most, to ascend to higher ground in my field, while remaining sophomoric in yours. I value your insights as a writer and world traveler. Your critique of my writing style, and add. thoughts on my background, while interesting as an observation, won’t alter my trajectory (as an aside, you really missed the mark on my level of experience….really, really off). My energy is toward my area of artistic expression and that leaves me rather unavailable to take on other artistic challenges. The words I use are honest expressions of my thoughts, representing a long and diverse history of experience. As far as I can tell, pretense has little to do with my life, even as the world appears to devolve into greater expressions of narcissism, and the will toward higher meaning appears beset by greater social/cultural challenges.
    Your writing style and subject matter is interesting and highly evolved from my view. I value your efforts in communication, authenticity, and often raw and unrestrained thinking. Dedicated world travelers are an interesting subset of creative/imaginative/alternative thinkers, and a great way to broaden the world view among those following.

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    • Wade Shepard June 11, 2019, 12:19 pm

      Abstract painter? That explains it! You seem to write and think in ways that take roads that are not often traveled. I was wondering, “who is this guy?” I was way off in my guess! I’d like to see you work someday. Are you based anywhere? How can I check out some of what you do?

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