I believe in fate. As in things happening for a reason, and paying attention to what was meant to be. Or what I perceive as such. That’s exactly what brought me to a rash decision.
Six and a half years ago I naively embarked on what I thought would be a 1-year project. I confidently sat down and started writing. Feeling a book in the making, I plowed through thousands of miles of bike touring with Rich, capturing all the nuances of our day to day travels. Living on two bikes, our meager belongings in paniers, the ups and downs of married life for up to two months on the road at a time. I poured my life and creativity into that project. For over four years.
I learned a lot along the way. Writing classes, a writing coach and my writing group sustained and propelled me through the process. I wrote well into the pandemic, transforming our bunk room into my home coffee shop where I could hide and write. I tackled structure, scenes, dialog and the other essentials. Until one day two years ago, when I stopped. Stuck.
Bottom line, it’s not about the bike. I’ve now read enough cycle touring stories (thanks to the advice of my writing coach) to know that just chronicling our touring is not enough. In fact it can be pretty boring. It’s what is underneath that counts. What the real plot is. And I just don’t know what that is.
My manuscript lies buried in the hard drive of my laptop, untouched since then. I thought the plot would come to me, but it hasn’t.
A couple of weeks ago, I took a Zoom writing class that resonated with me. Nail your Memoir Structure by Thinking like a Novelist, taught by Allison K. Williams gave me a lot to ponder. It identified a lot of writing techniques, book editing tactics and good solid advice. None of it solved my problem, but it made me think, and it gave me hope. So when Allison mentioned she was teaching a class on Madeline Island this summer, I succumbed to the temptation and took a look.
The very first writing class I ever took was at the Madeline Island School of the Arts, eight years ago. The immersion experience of working in a small group with an instructor for five days and living on campus fueled my nascent foray into writing. Could the same environment re-invigorate my creativity? Could it help me find my way to the underlying truth?
There it was: Second Draft: Your Path to Powerful Publishable Writing. The dates could work for me by manipulating my plans on either end. So tempting, but a roadblock. No lodgings available. To me, being on campus is an integral part of the experience. I wasn’t sure I was game for being a day student, even if I could find nearby lodgings.
With some nudging from Rich, I half-heartedly emailed to ask about a wait list, or alternate accommodations. Already letting go of the idea. One day later, I received word that there had been a cancellation. Not only that, but it was a single room with shared bath – the exact room I wanted. I had to commit immediately to claim it. So I did. Certain that this was a sign. It was meant to be.
I was thrilled, riding on a high for the rest of the day. At night, all my doubts invaded. Will this really help me find the answer? More importantly, do I really want to do this? Am I ready to recommit myself to the task? To the mammoth, years-long process of manipulating my words into a viable story that others will want to read? Do I really want to spend all those hours sitting in a chair in front of my laptop when I could be outside on my bike, in a kayak or skiing? Or is this just what I need to refuel my self-confidence and provide a balance to my active life?
I’m about to find out. Between now and the end of July I will have to unwrap those dormant chapters and re-engage with the story. Remind myself where I was in the process, and hopefully rekindle the spark that began this journey. Only then can I travel to Madeline Island, settle into my room, partake of the healthy cuisine and become one with my fellow writers in class. Drink in the wisdom of our instructor.
And discover just what I have done.