I saw manatees this week.
At least, I think they were manatees. They were big gray lumps, breaking through the surface of the water and then disappearing again. Too big to be otters, which was my first thought. Too inland to be dolphins or whales, which would have been my second, if I’d been at the ocean.
I wasn’t at the ocean. I was actually at a lake whose name I don’t know, but which is right down the street (more or less, a few minutes drive away) from a driveway that has been a very regular campsite over the past four months.
It made me think about magic. And adventure. And the difference between them. But also, more importantly, about needing to remember that there is magic right around the corner, all the time, if we just remember to look for it.
On Wednesday, I’m finally starting my travels again — heading north, with plans to explore Georgia and Arkansas and the states between the two. (That vagueness is because I could hop up to Tennessee and drive across Tennessee to get to Arkansas, or I could stay farther south and drive through the northern ends of Alabama and Mississippi. I think which I do might depend on the weather, might depend on what sounds interesting along the way.)
My Arkansas destination is Eureka Springs. Why Eureka Springs? Well, why not? But that’s not the entire answer. This weekend I got an email from fanfiction.net, a review on one of my last Eureka stories. It was really good timing, because it reminded me of what happened in 2010. I had given up on writing fiction, almost a decade earlier, because… drum roll? … nothing I wrote ever satisfied me. Much like I’ve done for the past three years, I wrote in circles, I over-wrote, I edited to death, it was never good enough. Writing was an exercise in frustration, not a satisfaction or a joy. And so I quit writing.
Then I fell in love with a television show, Eureka, and more specifically a relationship on the show and wanted desperately to know what happened next. I discovered fanfiction. But none of the stories were quite the one that I wanted to read, so I wrote my own. And then I wrote more, and then I wrote more, until I had written hundreds of thousands of words of fanfiction, with stories that ranged from a few thousand words to full-length novellas of 35,000+. But I had a strict rule, which was that I didn’t edit. I wrote and I let go.
Literally, I would write during my free time and then before I went to sleep, I would post what I’d written. I never went back and questioned myself, I never edited, I never agonized over plots — it was all spur-of-the-moment, top-of-my-head, as fast as I could write, writing. I wrote in 1000-word blocks and then I shared them. Are the stories perfect? Nowhere close. Are they fun, fast, readable, entertaining, creative, amusing… yes, all of the above.
I need to get back to that kind of writing. I don’t know whether I can entirely, because one of the joys of writing fanfiction was the community, the instant-feedback from supportive readers. I don’t know how many times my author notes on those stories say things like, “I wouldn’t have written this if it weren’t for reviews from x, y, z,” but it’s often. Really often. Those reviews motivated me.
But I also look at the stories and I didn’t worry about grammar, about perfection. I’ve got sentence fragments and run-ons, dialogue-style construction in narrative, adjectives used with blithe abandon, and jumps in point-of-view whenever I felt like I needed to be in a different point-of-view, sometimes with breaks but sometimes just done. And all those things work just fine. I just wrote and let go. So that’s my new resolution for working on Grace, to write and let go.
And I’m going to Eureka Springs, because I saw the name on a map yesterday and thought, Yes! I want to go back to Eureka. It won’t be the same, but as long as I’m on my way there, I’ll be reminding myself every day of what it meant to me to be living in Eureka.