Posts Tagged ‘lemonade’

To The Future and Beyond

February 15, 2011 1 comment

This week I’m pulling together materials gathered on our trip so far. It’s staggering how much info one can collect on so many things within so short a timeframe. We have what appear to be reams of miscellaneous info hiding in every hole and corner in the car.

Of course, the problem would have been even greater if there had been more space available in our car. When I do research, I tend to gather as much info as is possible. Sister Jo is much the same way. After all, I never know how an angle will turn. I might be able to get fifteen different angles from one location, each with a viable voice and interest.

If we’d been able to spend adequate time in all of those places and talk with more people, heaven only knows how much material we would have gathered in the end. I would suspect that it’s a good thing that we didn’t get any more to work with than we did. I already have enough to keep me busy in articles alone for the next several months.

The book that we planned sits at the apex of the pile of work waiting to commence. Our predicament is that what we set out to write and what we will actually write are two different animals completely. This trip has highlighted many aspects that we’d not anticipated.

I keep wondering if all writers who set out to do a big project like this end up with the same problem. Does the project mutate as the research progresses? Does the writer come back to the desk with piles of experience that doesn’t resemble any of her previously planned work?

If that happens to all such projects, and the books get written, published and marketed, what was the original book idea? What did it look like at the beginning?

I look at some of the non-fiction work out there on the market now and ask that one question. How much reorganization and mental reassessment gets done before word one gets down on paper?

For instance, we set out to write a book on two senior women tenting their way across the country and exploring their own birthplace. Noble goals, don’t you think? So did we. Reality wouldn’t permit such a trip.

Weather drove us down the highway faster and faster each day. It’s difficult to sightsee when you’re trying not to drown in the deluge. Tenting is only possible when you can find a campground that accepts tents or that you can afford.

We had a realistic monthly budget when we started. We’d budgeted for gasoline costs between prospective locations within each state. We’d slated the costs of campsites as researched online for two months. The only place where we would have had problems would have been in New England in the coming summer. Those states had outrageous camping fees.

We knew how much food we’d need to buy for camping and still eat well and healthily. We’d accounted for our regular medications, our personal toiletries and laundry, and phone cards for communications links. We knew what we could live on and how much we had to spend each month.

Black and white are lovely colors, except when the economy and Mother Nature bleed all over the accounting sheets and screw everything up. Our contingency fund just wasn’t big enough to absorb eating nearly every meal in a restaurant, campgrounds everywhere we turned that accepted only RVs, and temperatures below freezing in the Deep South, including Florida.

That, my friends, is how you have a year-long trip culminate in short-term disaster in two months. Sometimes the best laid plans can bring you up short really fast. The key is to make the best of what you can and regard the rest as education for any next round that you might anticipate or plan.

Now you can understand why the book will have an entirely different slant than intended. The odd thing is that by the time it’s finished, it might actually be a better book than the one planned. Different lessons were learned and opposing aspects were revealed both in ourselves and in the world around us.

It has become a case of having a bag of lemons dumped in our laps and having to make lemonade with them. We can make it very sweet, just sweet enough with a bit of tang around the edges, or we can make it so sour that none could stomach it. Those are the choices handed us by the fates.

I’d like to think that we’ll choose the middle course. It’s much more palatable, and let’s face it. It would be much more fun to write, as well.

There it is in a burst of authorial truth. That’s how this project is progressing and why. We’re not at a place yet where we can answer the question of whether we would do it again if presented with the opportunity. We’ll save that for later down the pike.

If you’re thinking of taking on this kind of personal assignment, I’ll give one piece of advice. Before you commit to anything, sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. Ask yourself one crucial question. How flexible are you when plans go awry?

If you feel like it, give me your thoughts on the subject. Tell me what you think. And remember than everyone has their own turning point in life. The key is deciding when the road will turn too far and end at a cliff.

Until later, a bientot,