Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WRT Inaugural Post: How do you roadtrip?

Writing is a journey. Always.
Of patience, usually.
Of endurance, absolutely.
Of self-discovery, unquestionably.

In my carefree days after leaving home and before starting college (several years later), roadtrips were a frequent distraction from my army enlistment and the routine of low-wage jobs that followed. I trawled the East Coast from North Carolina to Maine this way, on a half tank of gas, ten bucks in my wallet and a sleeping bag sharing the back seat with Pringles, Pop Tarts and a case of Mountain Dew. Just jumped in after work and headed off in one compass direction with a vague notion of how far I wanted to go. Heck, I explored half of Europe this way too, now that I think about it. Now, while I wouldn't trade in those roadtrips for anything, I can see now how they could have been so much more meaningful.

Anyone who has ever taken an impromptu roadtrip will tell you, almost without exception, that they never got where they thought they were going when they set out. If, indeed, there was a destination to begin with, as was often the case for me. Too many distractions along the way. Poor planning. Not enough Pringles. Whatever the reason, chance defines such endeavors.

To write with this mentality is fine, as long as you have the right expectations. That is, none other than personal satisfaction. Exploratory exposition can be very healthy for the mind and the soul. Yes, you may be lucky enough to find, when you get to end of the road, that the trip yielded something of value. And not just to yourself but to the world. But it's unlikely.

As writers for publication, there has to be a destination. Otherwise, we're simply, well, wandering.

How we, as writers, set off on that journey will mark how the quickly we get to our destination.

Do you plan your writing roadtrips? Or do you just jump right in and hope the high of junkfood gets you someplace worthwhile?


  1. First of all, congratulations on your first Blog post! As in most things, I have THOUGHT about starting a blog, and then, well...didn't.

    Which kinda sums up my writing roadtrips!

    As a middle school English teacher, I ALWAYS had my students hammer out a brainstorming page complete with characters and a plot that had a clear ending. (The conclusion is key--I couldn't read another story that ended in "and it was all a dream" and not shoot myself, which is a very tempting ending to a tired teenage writer.) I always encouraged them to deviat from their plans as inspiration struck, but knew the power of having a finish-line, if only as a goal.

    So, that is how I write, too. I have a plan, follow it for the most part the first time, and deviat as I revise the second, third, fourth...

    You get the idea!

  2. Thanks for the show of support, Karen! It's funny, how differently I used to approach writing versus every other aspect of my life. I'm a planner, but I always used to think of my writing projects as opportunities for self-discovery. And while they've certainly been informative, even cathartic, projects that started off with nothing more than a fuzzy idea of what I wanted to accomplish ended up being, well, merely exercises "for my eyes only." I can easily see how those projects I embarked upon with planning, an outline of the plot points and character dossiers, stand apart from a commercial point of view, garnering much more general interest.

    I'm not saying writers all need to start out with outlines and essentially a finished story before putting fingers to keyboard - some stories are so powerful, so intrinsic to the human condition, and so psychically deep - that they write and sell themselves. Just as some journeys of self-discovery end up driving a national movement. But how often does that happen?

    I truly respect what you're teaching. And the challenges you must face when you do. Bravo!