Friday, December 18, 2009

Travel and Writing (Not Travel Writing)

I love to travel. I love the adventure of it. I love plunging head first into the unknown. Sure, I plan a bit. I take a map. I try to learn a bit of the language. I have in mind a few must-sees. But the best things about traveling, for me, are the surprises along the way.

Sometimes it's scary—lost on country roads in France with a huge pack on my back, blisters on my feet, and not a town in sight. Then it starts to snow. It is both beautiful and terrifying. Will I freeze to death in France?

Sometimes it's just plain miserable—finding three museums in a row closed. Is there a holiday we don’t know about?

And sometimes it is magical—hacking through the jungle in southern Mexico and happening upon stone ruins and a hidden waterfall. Sunlight filters through the canopy and we lay down our machetes to rinse our sticky skin in the cool pool.

For me, writing is like traveling. The best things come when I lay myself open to adventure.
Sometimes, afterwards, I look back and think that I could have got a lot more out of Paris if I'd had a better travel plan. But then I would have missed that flock of birds rising out of a tree in front of the Moulin Rouge that I’d just walked by without noticing. Or the funny little couple that we kept bumping into.

Like anything, there's a balance to strike.

Now that I'm slogging through revisions on my novel, I sometimes wistfully think that this stage would be so much easier if I'd started with a more comprehensive outline. As is, some chapters have to be completely re-written. (I'm talking, scrap everything but two paragraphs and fill up that blank page.) But, if I'd had a more detailed outline, Annabel would have walked right by the lovely family in the woods. She never would have met Mieka and Lumi and Nana Trots. She also might never have had that vision of her mother, the one that plays before her eyes throughout the rest of the book. And I never would have written pages and pages of back-story on one supporting character that helped me understand the rest of the story in a whole new way.

So this is my homage to first drafts, to plunging boldly into the unknown, to going forward and not looking back until you have something whole to look back on.


Amy Tate said...

Great analogy. I enjoy chasing the rabbits down trails too...even when it has nothing to do with the story.

Merry Christmas!

Tess said...

I don't mind travel if it includes nice hotels and restaraunts ;)

If only revisions were as cushy.

Sarah said...

Yay, Lisa! Writing is an adventure, isn't it?