Today marks the official day I begin revisions on my WIP, The Night Caller. At some point, even an obsessive plotter must stop and realize the writing will fill in the blanks I have yet to. But here, at the beginning yet again, it does put the entire project into perspective again. At a time when goals and daily page counts dominate my thoughts and the ending I just figured out must echo the beginning scene I am poised to write, I remember back to my other projects. The ones where the journey took me somewhere wildly off-course and the end result didn't reflect the scope and magnitude of the novel in my head.
No where was this more evident than in my short story, The Lost Highway. In my initial vision, there was a bridge responsible for the anomaly in time, a fiery inferno the protagonists had to reach before the window of opportunity faded forever. In the final version, the bridge is still there, in the past. But somehow along the way it became enough for the hero and heroine to simply be. Not racing a ticking time bomb but to simply pause, be in the moment with all the fears and confusion of their internal conflicts, and become aware of the opportunity they'd been given. To simply be.
Would the fiery inferno have made a better story? Perhaps. But when the detoured story is good enough to sell, as The Lost Highway has, does that mean that true art, the words we paint on the imaginary canvas of the reader, is in the attempt, not in the destination? Had I not buckled in and followed the story map of my mind to the bridge, would I have found the same story? Doubtful.
As writers, I don't think we're ever truly satisfied with our words. We're always finding stronger verbs or a different twist that would have taken the story in an entirely new direction. I suspect all creative people wage this battle in their own minds. What emerges is never truly what we envisioned, like something that constantly outdistances us. Who's to say the detour we stumble upon isn't better?
This lessens the looming expectations of the destination and allows faith to creep in. Threads that magically weave themselves into the fabric of our novel and the belief that the characters will find the path they're meant to travel. And for the writer, the freedom to realize that true art is in the attempt.