I don’t know about you, but my heart sinks when I see a DETOUR sign ahead, especially when I’m in a hurry. I don’t like the unexpected. I don’t like being forced to travel on a different and unfamiliar road. I don’t like my trip taking any longer than anticipated.
Today I’m thinking about the detours in my own life. Unlike the detours on the road, life’s detours don’t announce themselves on large black and neon orange signs. They sometimes appear as tantalizing, left-field opportunities where I find my heart wondering, is this it? Is this the one? Is this the way? Most of the time these opportunities don’t turn out to be “the one” or “the way,” but I’ve noticed that when I give myself the space and time to explore, these detours almost always take me to a new place or a new direction I wouldn’t have discovered on my own.
Detours can’t be planned or rushed. I’m learning to leave more white space on my calendar to embrace the detours as they surface for me. The same principles apply to good writing. I bring this approach to my college application essay guidance. I help high school students head down the road with an essay writing plan — and I build enough time and space into our process for them to explore any detours that emerge along the way. Sometimes the detours will take them exactly where they needed to go all along.