Word count: 726 words
Reading time: Less than 3 minutes
Have you ever had your well-made plans go completely and thoroughly wrong? Here’s what happened to me, recently…
My husband and I spent a week in the Okanagan, last month, in the Canadian equivalent of California’s Napa Valley. It has rolling hills. Lots of vineyards. Beautiful scenery. And, usually, weather that’s much warmer and dryer than Vancouver.
Well, that’s what we’d planned. The first inkling that things might go astray appeared en route – on the Coquihalla Highway, in the middle of freaking nowhere. In the pouring rain.
Our car died. (See the tow-truck photo, above.)
Granted, it’s not a new car. But it’s a reliable one (a Honda Odyssey) that we’ve lovingly and carefully maintained. But one minute we were driving and, the next, the car had geared down and suddenly wouldn’t move. We were climbing a hill and there wasn’t even a shoulder where we could pull off. Dangerous!
In view of a 45-minute wait for the tow, my husband got the car going again, allowing us to move to a safer spot on the side of the road. I then texted my brother who happened to be staying in the same resort we were heading towards. He kindly offered to pick us up in Merritt, a two-and-a-half hour round-trip for him. Oh, and he helped us unload our canoe from the top of the car and lock it to the fence at the closed-because-it-was-Sunday garage.
We spent the next few days in frantic negotiations by phone with several garages in Merritt. We had to walk more than an hour to get groceries and wouldn’t have been able to visit any wineries except my brother kindly drove us to one. (We treated him to lunch in return.) The sky never cleared and, we discovered, that we’d caught the tail end of a storm.
Even though we got the car back on day three (a faulty gasket rather than a faulty transmission, as we’d feared) I didn’t get to put on my bathing suit. Go canoeing. Or do anything more in a winery than eat lunch.
You know, this sort of catastrophe happens with writing as well. Have you ever experienced it? You try to do your research and the people you need to speak with just aren’t available. You sit down to write and you stare at a blank screen that simply reflects your equally blank mind. You work on editing a piece and as you dicker with words and move entire paragraphs around, you’re not certain you’re actually improving a damn thing.
Here’s the conundrum: You can’t guarantee that your writing is going to go well, any more than I could guarantee sunshine in the normally fair-weathered Okanagan. Sometimes the words come easily. Sometimes you have to wedge them out, as if you were using a screwdriver to pull a stubborn pebble out of the nubbly sole of your hiking boot. In fact, even if you do everything right (mindmap, don’t edit while you write, allow for incubation) –- you might still have to deal with problems, just as we had to deal with a dead car, even though we’d had it checked by a garage before our trip.
Our vacation was not at all what we had expected. But after we sorted out the car problem, our holiday was relaxing. We each read three books. We had lots of very nice walks along the waterfront. We had the chance to become better acquainted with my brother, who is a spectacular chef. And we discovered a marvellous VinegarWorks in Summerland (with the best raspberry vinegar I’ve ever tasted!)
In short, it was better than staying at home working. Consider writing in the same way. If you don’t write, you won’t become frustrated with the process. But you’ll also miss the chance to stretch yourself, to make new discoveries and to interpret the world in your own voice.
The choice is up to you.
What do you do when your writing (or your vacation) doesn’t go as planned? How do you cope? We can all learn from each other so please share your thoughts with my readers and me by commenting below. (If you don’t see the comments box, click here and then scroll to the end.)