Monday, August 15, 2011
Hundreds of years before GPS, travelers had milestones to help them gauge their progress and keep them on the right path. Emperor Caesar Augustus erected the Milliarium Aureum—the Golden Milestone—in ancient Rome, from which all distances in the Roman Empire were measured. Inspired by the Golden Milestone, Dr. S.M. Johnson proposed a similar marker for Washington D.C., and the Zero Milestone was completed and dedicated in 1923.
We get the word “mile” from the Latin mille passuum, meaning thousand paces. The paces in question were those of the Roman Legion, so a mile was about the distance the soldiers could travel every thousand paces, with a pace being defined as two marching steps. We’ve standardized things even more now, of course, and a non-nautical mile equals 5,280 feet, or 1760 yards, or 1609.3 meters, or 320 rods. (Now you have to do the math to figure out how long a rod is.)
These days, most of us refer to milestones less in a travel context and more for marking progress toward a goal. And if my internet search is any indication, we writers are milestone people. Though we all set our own, they tend to be very similar: first chapter, first draft, first manuscript, first pitch session, landing an agent, securing a contract, cashing a paycheck.
Unlike the real deal, though, our writers’ milestones are not equidistant. The first milestones are often reached faster, with less perceived effort and more perceived fun. But at a point, progress gets harder, as if we’re crossing more difficult terrain (which we often are). When that happens, and the next milestone doesn’t seem to be any closer, how do we keep our momentum? We might all have a different answer, but I find that it can be very helpful to simply turn around and look back. Sometimes, when we’re so focused on what lies ahead, we forget how far we’ve come. When I’m reminded of the milestones I’ve passed, it becomes easier to pick up the pace and keep on going toward the next one.
Have you reached any milestones lately?