When I begin a story, I rarely know what direction it will take. Whether it’s a column, which is basically just me living my life, paying attention and writing about it, which should be pretty simple and straightforward but rarely is, or a feature article for the newspaper which also has what should be a predestined outcome, I start on a premise of making the story relatable, authentic and always with an unexpected twist, because isn’t that what life does best – throwing us a curve ball?
I am a long-time fan of Julia Cameron and her famous “morning pages” outlined in her book The Artist’s Way. After joining a class at Wisdom House in Litchfield with an artist friend, I regularly grabbed a pad and pen on my night stand and without overthinking it, scribbled the required three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing to unleash creativity and passion. I wasn’t always successful with the concept of free-flowing and not overthinking, because I often went back and edited the scribbles. Evidently, I’m very controlling with my creativity, whilst letting the passion run wild.
A couple years ago, I was presented with an opportunity that promised a confluence of creativity, passion and Grand Adventure. Amtrak’s Train Across America no doubt prominently figures on bucket lists around the country, and my partner at that time was planning to spend three weeks aboard one of those trains. She planned to disembark at whistle stops in San Diego, Chicago, etc. to visit family and friends, but also to give away free books and meet local authors and Little Free Library stewards at every opportunity. The most exciting layover would have been in Hudson, Wisconsin, headquarters for the mothership of littlefreelibrary.org.
If I had come along for the ride, I would have been the travel writer, little free library publicist and videographer. That last title gives me pause, since I usually take still photos to accompany my writing. But then I discovered that Robert Redford’s grandson put up his own travelogue on YouTube with dizzying special effects . . . and then I knew what I didn’t want to do . . . that’s always helpful. The other consideration was whether I could take notes inside a train moving at 150 mph. I used to get motion sickness when trying to read a book in the back seat of a car. I thought I might bring along a voice recorder and take a hike in the Rockies at the train stops. That would probably have been pretty steep, but at least I would be providing my own motion.
The Train Across America never materialized. In the meantime, I continue living my life out loud by documenting it in a weekly column, irregularly scribbling morning pages that approximate three and are occasionally edited even though I’m the only one reading them, finding inspiration in the lives and accomplishments of others that fascinate me, and being fortunate that I can share all that. And I spend a lot of time daydreaming about Grand Adventures.
When a friend recently invited me to cover a lively winter lake event, I had to decline with the explanation that I would be in a daylong writers’ retreat that day. The response: “No better place to write than 915 acres of ice.”