Sunday, June 16, 2013

Best Laid Plans

This whole “Get busy livin’” thing sure is a lot of effort—and it hasn’t even really started. There’s just a ton to prepare for. Where to live, what to pack, what route to go, where to stay along the way, how long it’ll take to get there. I even had to decide whether to cut my hair, or just let it flow Tim Riggins-style (I’ve tried the Riggins look before to unceremonious reviews, so I chose short). Plus, once I’m there, I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to eat—which will be no easy task, considering the closest Chipotle will be two-plus hours away.

But just as important as figuring out all of that is figuring out the best way to approach this whole thing when it comes to my writing. That is, after all, one of the pillars of this experiment—putting myself in a situation that can be a source of ideas to write about, and in a position that will afford me the opportunity to write about them.

My initial thoughts were to focus my energy on an ongoing journal, something that would chronicle my day-to-day experiences. My entries would be more frequent, but most likely shorter and not as creatively complex (and probably not as cleanly written). The benefit of this approach would be twofold. First, whereas my daily routine to this point has been nothing worth remembering, the hope is that it will quickly become something I don’t want to forget. And considering my memory isn’t quite what it used to be, it’d be wise to have written documentation of it. And that’s where the second advantage comes in. Looking long term, tracking the day’s events each night could ultimately serve as the foundation for something much bigger (a book…maybe…possibly) when all of this is over.

Of course, the potential pitfall with this is that, even in a place as magical as Bandon Dunes, there are going to be plenty of days that aren’t all that interesting. I mean, how many times can you talk about the world’s greatest golf courses, or the distinct smell of the ocean air, or watching another breathtaking sunset over the Pacific? Ho-hum. Blah, blah, blah. It just gets old after a while, and I don’t want to feel relegated to writing about the insulating advantages of long underwear or what I had for lunch (especially because it won’t be Chipotle)—and then expect people to read it. As the great Aaron Sorkin has explained, the responsibility of a writer is to captivate the audience for as long as he’s asked for their attention.

More importantly, this method would come at the expense of exploring broader, more in-depth themes—the exploration on which this blog was founded. I’ve always been vigilant of my day-to-day, but those experiences have ultimately served as the on-the-surface inspiration to dig a little deeper, to discover the real story behind the story. It’s just the way my mind works, it’s what I’m most interested in, and it’s the style of writing where I ideally envision my future.

The catch, though, is that writing these types of articles takes time. They require more thought, more reflection, more effort. And this fact hits at the heart of my biggest insecurity as a writer—my speed. I’m slow. Like “Oregon Trail” slow. I just am. While I’ve built confidence over the years in my ability to produce a quality finished product, the process it takes me to arrive there can be excruciatingly snail-like. I sit, and I think, and I stare. There’s definitely a lot of staring. I walk away, and I procrastinate, and I read college football message boards. I battle with the demons that are convinced I’ll never be able to string together consecutive coherent sentences. I write, and re-write, and re-write again. This cycle happens over and over, until I finally think I have something I’m not completely embarrassed to have somebody else read. Pick your favorite step-by-step metaphor—climbing a mountain, chopping down a tree, knocking out a Russian prizefighter hopped up on PEDs—and any one of them is applicable here.

In other words, "Rocky IV" could be considered the film adaptation of my writing process.

I understand that everyone goes through this to some extent—not just in writing, but in any “creative” endeavor, whether it’s building a business or an Excel spreadsheet. And I know that every misstep, every re-write, every second I dance with that blank white page—I have to go through all of it in order to arrive at my final destination.

But in this situation, at Bandon Dunes, where there are potentially so many ideas to write about, where the out-of-the-ordinary could become the norm and the creative tempo gets kicked up a notch, by focusing my attention on a singular swath of the frame, what might I miss out on in the big picture?

And that’s really where all this comes from—the desire to get every last ounce out of this experience that I can, and the accompanying fear that stems from not knowing how to do that. This is a once-in-my-lifetime opportunity, and I want to do it the right way, and with no regrets. But what if I haven’t prepared enough? Though I’ve considered the essentials—food, shelter, clothing, hairdo—what if I haven’t thought of everything? I’m terrified an idea will dawn on me after it’s too late to execute it. I don’t want to think of, say, taking a picture of every official “Welcome” sign as I enter a new state—once I’m already halfway across the country.

(Making a mental note.)

But then again, what does the “right way” even mean? After all, one of the purposes of this experience is for me to become more comfortable with the unknown, to trust that I’ll figure it out as I go, to be at peace with no peace. And as I’ve learned recently in the book “Little Bets” by Peter Sims, the best ideas aren’t fully formed at creation; they’re discovered and refined through constant experimentation (as an aside, I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to anyone who wants to achieve something that seems overwhelming or downright impossible). You have to try things, screw up, and try something else. And yes, you have to often spend time honing your David Puddy impression, all in the name of finding what you’re looking for.

An applicable example of this would be this article. When I first sat down to write it, the idea I had in mind was not what you are reading right now. But the more I got into it, the more it changed, and the more it developed—and now, here we are. At one point, for instance, there was a paragraph that laid out this elaborate metaphor between my memory bank and the movie “Point Break,” where Patrick Swayze’s crew was robbing me of my memories and Keanu Reeves was fighting to stop them. But alas, it just didn’t work and had to be cut. It was a shame, for sure, but that’s just the price of the creative process, meaning it was time well spent. And I’m sure that at some point in the future, it will all pay off, and there will be other opportunities for me to work out some new way to reference Bodhi, Johnny Utah, and the “Dead Presidents.”

I just haven’t figured it out yet.  

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About Me

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"It's not a lie, if you believe it." Those were the words of one of my generation's great sages, George Costanza, and the more of life I experience, the truer they ring. And while I still haven't found what I'm looking for, the search for my own personal "truths" is never-ending. Care to come along for the ride?