Monday, July 2, 2012

Getting Lost

By Shannon Baker

I went for a bike ride this morning and nearly died. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but only slight. We just moved from Arizona to Colorado, in the Boulder area. I’ve lived around here before but in a different part of the community. I know of a few trusty bike trails and have scoped out a sweet course to work that involves all bike lanes. Boulder is a super biking city.

I haven’t found nice recreational routes from my new home yet. There’s a wonderful trail along a creek but it’s not paved and I have road tires on my bike, a little too narrow for a dirt road. So I’ve been exploring early in the morning, before traffic heats up.

One morning I followed a bike lane that took me into an old-town area and petered out. It was 6 AM so no traffic. But in the middle of the day it would be hairy riding. I crossed that off my list of possibilities.
This morning I took a turn, expecting it would take me under the Interstate and around to a quiet road to complete a loop. Logic told me it would work that way and I looked forward to climbing a hill, scooting through a quaint downtown, angling back across a busy highway and sliding into my garage.
That’s not exactly how it turned out.

I ended up on what, in effect, was an off ramp of the Interstate with cars barreling down and the shoulder strewn with rocks. Whoosh! Aghghgh! Talk about getting my heart rate up! I escaped with my life and my bike intact, but it seemed touch and go for a while.

Sadly, this search and find process is how my writing often progresses. I start going down one way and by the time I’m in the middle of the road, I find it strewn with potholes, traffic and danger. I have to get out quickly and make a new plan. I read books on craft and attend workshops and seek out better ways to plot a book. I also read maps to find the best road, path, or trail. But, as with writing, I’m never really sure how it goes until I’m on the ground, pedaling it out.

Sometimes I set out on a certain mission only to find an interesting path I hadn’t intended to take. I don’t know where it goes but I’ll follow it anyway. Even if it doesn’t get me to my destination, it’s rarely a wasted trip. You know that Zen saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” 

I often wish my writing, route-finding, and life in general was less messy. Then again, by not always having a plan, or not always following the plan I lay out, I’ve done, seen, written better things than my pea brain thought of in the first place.

This morning, I discovered a route I should never take again. It won’t stop me from exploring another unknown next time. There’s got to be a nice morning ride somewhere close and I intend to find it.

If anyone out there has a foolproof plotting method, I’d love to hear from you. Currently, I’m using Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks. I find it extremely useful. 


Lois Winston said...

Shannon, I've found what works for one person, doesn't for another. There's no one right way to write. It's a meandering process, always changing. If it didn't, we'd be machines. There's that other Zen saying, "Go with the floe." ;-)

Beth Groundwater said...

Interesting analogy, Shannon, comparing finding a story plot line to finding a good bike route in an urban neighborhood fraught with peril!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Shannon, my writing style is much like yours, so I have absolutely no words of wisdom.

My exploration style is also similar, except I'm usually on foot. I walk until I'm tired, then realize I should have turned around much, much sooner. We creative types can be forgiven for such things, right?

Shannon Baker said...

Kathleen, related to your comment... I was thinking about a new plot line this morning while walking along a path by a creek and got to going so far, walking so fast, that by the time I came back to reality, I was much further than intended and had to run back to make it to work on time! We're crazy.