For my last birthday (no, I won't tell you which one) my mother got me a TomTom GPS. I sent it back.
I like to find my own way.
I suppose it's in my blood. My father's always been one for the indirect journey. Though able to admit when he's made a wrong turn, thus eschewing the male stereotype, he is yet completely incapable of turning around. As kids, we knew we were in real trouble when he got the map out. Still, he would always insist the route we were on would work itself out in the end.
Maddeningly, it almost always did.
|Not the road I was on. Darn it.|
It was a lovely day for driving, the sun had remembered to shine, the air was comfortable, and I was on familiar roads dotted by landmarks that sparked warm memories. That was G's old house. Here's where I made M turn thinking I was funny and flirty when really I was an annoying 14-year-old twit. There's the Charlie Brown restaurant where my mother, sister and I watched what seemed to be a never-ending playoff game when the Mets took the pennant in '86. I love those roads. I love gunning it through the curves, coasting down the hills, knowing when and how to get around the inevitable slow, elderly driver. It helps that I remember where the cops like to hide.
Somewhere after crossing Noe Ave but before Long Hill Drive, it occurred to me that this drive was like the long and winding road of a writer's journey. Certainly my own journey as a writer has been far from straight. A hodgepodge of fits and starts followed by intense outpourings of – well, let's face it, utter claptrap. My current WIP is the descendant of a story I wrote my sophomore year of college. I still have steno books filled with the beginnings of another novel that I wrote while working for Sears credit central when I thought I'd fallen into a black hole from which I would never emerge (To quote Bull Durham, working for Sears sucks.) I had drive, I had intention and ambition, but I desperately lacked directions.
And then, I got out the map.
In 2008, I joined RWA and my local chapter, NJRW, and suddenly this wild and crazy desire, this pie in the sky dream, finally began to gel together into something real. This past weekend, as I listened to a panel of experienced editors and agents detail what writers do wrong, I thought of all the things I've done wrong on this journey and the handful of things I've managed to work out right. Joining RWA and NJRW, finding my extraordinary critique partners and a cadre of chapter mates who constantly encourage me, attending workshops and conferences, learning from great writers who've already gone down my rocky road.
Sure, life and responsibility continue to intervene, throwing detours and speed bumps in my way without even a sympathetic spat of a foreshadowing traffic report. The trick is to journey on, improving craft, making contacts, finding my own special way as I keep working to be better at what I am – a writer.
In the end, the route always works itself out.
Maps? GPS? Tell me how you like to find your way. Two random commenters will get a book from the Mighty Basket of Win.