Saturday, March 27, 2010
Last summer, Aaron and I took our boys on a mini-vacation. We went to Omaha, Nebraska for a weekend of fun, and scheduled our days to the max with visits to the zoo, the children's museum, and afternoons at the hotel waterpark. Have you ever taken small children on vacation? Our weekend of fun wasn't quite as fun as we'd hoped...
There were tears at the zoo. We only made it through a few exhibits before complete meltdown. And the hotel waterpark was sadly subpar. Blessedly, we missed the kid-puking-in-the-pool incident by minutes. Guess what? We never even made it to the children's museum. The parking lot was overflowing with cars and the line to get in was enough to deter us completely.
Our vacation was a total bust. Until we took a random detour through a state park on the way home.
After days of trying to manufacture fun, we slowed down enough to enjoy each moment as it came. In the car on the way to the park welcome center, we spotted twin fawns in a field of flowers. When we stopped the van, they came right up to our windows before bounding away over the windswept grass. Then we stumbled upon a century-old mystery when we realized that the state park was the burial ground of a sunken steamboat that went undiscovered for almost a hundred years. Finally, the lovely ranger at the welcome center outfitted the boys with backpacks for their own adventure in exploration. We spent the rest of the day reveling in unexpected discoveries. The little gray frog we found turned out to be infinitely more interesting than the Siberian tiger at the zoo.
I've been thinking a lot about that vacation lately. Partly because it contains so many sweet memories (yes, even the zoo meltdown had it's own special charm). But mostly I think I'm still learning from our summer experience. And applying it to my writing (and the rest of my life) these days...
I believe I spend way too much time trying to manufacture my books. I micro-manage my stories, telling my characters what is supposed to happen instead of allowing them to reveal themselves and their experiences to me. I set unrealistic goals and deadlines, then get frustrated and disappointed when I find myself unable to live up to my own expectations. I force things to happen instead of letting them unfold. In short, I hinder the entire process of discovery.
Granted, I have deadlines to meet and contracts to fulfill. I can't take five years to write a book. Nor do I want to. But I wonder what would happen if I'd let go a little... You know, live in the moment, take a wrong turn, slow down to enjoy the scenery instead of speeding past at mach 3. I think I'd write better books. And I think I'd spend a lot more days reveling in unexpected discoveries.
How about you? Are you a planner, a plotter, the sort of person who speeds on by? Or are you open to discovery? To unanticipated (and unplanned) moments?