Readers and other writers often ask me how I write a book. They want to know if I outline first or if I just start writing?

I read an author’s interview recently and she called herself a pantser, meaning, she writes by the seat of her pants, on the fly with no outline. That’s me.

Toni Morrison said “I always know the ending; that’s where I start.”

I agree with her. I usually know the ending of my books. I just take a very wandering, convoluted way to get there. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a maze, trying to figure out the puzzle of reaching the ending. It can be frustrating to write this way. It can also be wonderfully creative and freeing. It all depends on the day!

Speaking of endings, we all know how our lives will end. What we don’t know is the journey we will take on the way.

Thomas Merton said, “A journey makes us vulnerable, takes us from our more secure environments and commits us to the unknown. Perhaps this is why the journey has so often been our basic metaphor for life itself.”

For me, writing a novel is committing myself to the unknown. I often discover story lines and characters who I didn’t know I would find along the way.

And isn’t that how our lives can play out? We might start with an outline, a vague idea of how we imagine our life’s journey will go. But unexpected story lines and interesting characters can divert our paths.

I’m writing my fifth novel. Sometimes the words flow easily like a sparkling brook in a lush meadow, other times it feels like I’m climbing the steepest mountain. My legs and feet are numb, and I’m barely able to put one foot in front of another.

Merton said, “Our life journey is a precarious pilgrimage..We travel in the hope that the light will not fail to guide us, that the star will not be lost.”

Some days that creative light is dimmer than others. Yet still, I persist in the knowledge that I will eventually reach the ending.