Like a wave ebbing after crashing upon the shoreline a wave of quiet circled the earth last night.
As the clock struck midnight in each time zone across the world thousands of keyboards fell silent.
For better or for worse NaNoWriMo 2010 had come to a close.
Some had reached their goals, some had not.
I would like to congratulate those that did.
For those like myself that simply did not reach the 50K word count goal I would like to offer a story, possibly with a side order of wisdom trapped inside it.
Once upon a time, in the land of Brad’s childhood (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) my family and I would take road trips. We took them not as a means to an end, but as the vacation itself.
I remember one time that we were driving through the great smokey mountains and happened across a rest stop. A beautiful fast-moving stream was flowing along the side of whatever state highway we were traveling, and this was at a bridge where it crossed under.
We pulled into a little two or three car parking area covered in gravel next to a little grassy area about the size of my yard. It was empty and quiet. Not much traffic on the old roads these days, everyone takes the interstate. They need to get where they are going, forgetting everything in between.
As I got out of the mustard yellow Grand Torino and looked around I also saw one of those grill-on-a-pole things that parks have, a fire ring that looked like a tire rim buried in the ground, a garbage can, and a pair of weathered grey picnic tables.
What at first looked like a fine place to pull out the cooler and have a spot of lunch ended up becoming much more. It turned out to be the highlight of the trip.
As we sat there munching on our bologna sandwiches one of us had a thought. “I wonder how the fishing would be here?” said one of us, I honestly can’t remember who. Instead of leaving it at that and hustling along to whatever theme park may have been the destination we kinda shrugged and said “I don’t know, lets find out.”
Dad and I rooted about in the back of the car, finally coming out with a pair of battered old fishing poles and a small tackle box. Nothing we had packed for the trip, just something still in the trunk under the travel worn suitcases. Leftovers from some trip to the local pond.
Mom pulled out a lounge chair and Dad and I proceeded to answering the question.
The fishing was great.
So great in fact that we spent the entire rest of the day there relaxing and having fun. That evening we built a small campfire from dry wood we gathered in the treeline. Then we used a couple of metal marshmallow sticks we had also found in the trunk to cook our fish over it.
That was one of the best dinners I have ever had on the road, fish cooked on a stick over a fire and eaten out of metal pie plates. It’s honestly one of the fondest memories I have of traveling.
Later that evening when the fire had burned down we cleaned up our mess and got back in the car, driving off into the night.
I don’t remember what the destination was even supposed to be, or even if we had one.
I don’t remember what we were doing before, or after.
In fact, I don’t remember anything else about that trip.
But I remember that day, chilling by the side of the road, living in the moment with people I cared about.
Like my dad always used to tell me, and showed me that day, It’s not about the destination.
It’s about the journey.
I looked back on that as I sat at my keyboard last night, trying to hammer out words into a story I have come to despise.
I was looking at the word count as a destination, a finish line. Something that must be reached, come hell or high water.
I was looking at writing as a means to an end, like those sad souls that never leave the interstate I had forgotten what really matters.
What NaNo was teaching me about myself.
I learned quite a bit actually, now that I sit back and look at it. Things that I am going to have to let percolate in what passes for my brain for a while before I am ready to talk about them.
I just wanted to come on today to congratulate those that participated. Win, lose, or draw, we are all better for having taken the ride.
NaNo is not so much about what you are going to write as it is about learning about yourself as a writer.
It truly is not about the destination, but about the journey.
Thanks to my friends (particularly the Saucy Wenches forums writing group) for taking this road trip with me. Without the company of friends I would never have gotten to where I am now.
Oh, and I am a man of my word.
I am enjoying my new hairdo, it is so much easier to take care of in the morning, though it is a bit chilly.