The foggy path (coined by coach Tara Sophia Mohr) is the path where you move based on impulse, and take one step at a time, without really knowing what you are building or where you are going. The foggy path is the only path I have ever really known. It feels like the way life is for must of us when we are open to possibility and summon the courage to follow our impulses. Whether I was writing books or starting a magazine or traveling alone, in a very unplanned way, in South America, I have always moved one step at a time. Before I read Tara’s blog post, when I felt lost or swamped by doubt in a project or my life, I would think of this quote from EL Dcotorow: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
I’ve thought a lot about the foggy path lately, as I am writing a memoir. Writing a memoir is a big leap of faith. I’m going on instinct that the story will cohere. As I write, I have often thought of Eat Pray Love. I need to be aware of it as a hugely successful memoir about a woman discovering herself through long-term travel; my project has a lot of commonalities. (Of course it will be very different too!) Although I really enjoyed Eat Pray Love, there was always something about the book that I found fundamentally unbelievable. It didn’t feel like a foggy path. She structured the book to say that she would be exploring pleasure in Italy (Eat), devotion in India (pray) and balance in Bali (love). When I read her plan in the beginning of the book, I thought, “Really?” Did you really know what you would be exploring in those countries? That has never been the way life works for me. Does it work that way for anyone? I go on an impulse and then figure it out.
A memoir is not life–the writer gets no credit for experience, only for the art and structure in creating a journey that a reader wants to read. Gilbert effectively created structure on top of her experience (108 sections, representing the number of beads in a japa mala or strand of prayer beads). Those sections were then divided into three groups to represent each country she visited. That structure creates a book that is easy for readers to grasp, almost a product, really. I am so impressed with her for creating a structure that obviously worked for so many people. Structure is not easy. Still, though, there is something about that that bugs me about the book because it does not feel true (at least for a foggy path person like me). Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail is a new memoir that Oprah chose as the first book of her new book club. Wild feels like a “foggy path” story. Literally it is the story of a hike along the path. She knows where she will end, but she makes decisions on impulse not anticipating what will come. That feels like life to me.