I’m still coming down from my six days in Marin County where I took a writing workshop with Ron Carlson at the Writing by Writers conference. I spent some time the last couple of days transcribing my notes and downloading images. I came across the one above this morning, a panoramic view of Bodega Bay. It’s a gorgeous spot and the only reason I saw it is that I went off course, along with the two other women I shared a rental car with.
It started simply enough. We had arrived in San Francisco a day before the conference, arranged ahead of time to meet up at SFO, rented a car and drove up Highway 1. A couple of times that afternoon, we missed an exit or made a wrong turn. Our misdirection was aided, in part, by intermittent GPS signals and nonexistent phone networks in that rural area. By the next morning, however, after a good night sleep, we thought we finally had it right, and got on the road again. The two-lane road wound up through hilly farmlands and then dipped into coast redwoods, Douglas firs and Bishop pines all interjected with spectacular views of the narrow blue strip of Tomales Bay and the green of Point Reyes Peninsula on the other side.
Not until we reached Bodega Bay (above) did we suspect that something was wrong. Here Point Reyes Peninsula ends and the view expands into the dark indigo of open ocean. We pulled over, both to consult the map but also to admire the seashore. Photographs can never quite capture the breadth and depth of landscape. At least those taken with an iPhone! But here we stood on a cliff that dropped perhaps thirty feet to a beach below. From that height, I could see far into the depths of the large tidal pool below and out to the shore, where a dozen surfers pushed their way up onto the waves.
Oh, what a wonderful mistake we had made. Had we known better to go south, we would have never seen this place. Later, when I thought about it, I realized that our journey that morning was not unlike the one a writer takes when writing a story. She begins writing in one direction but then eventually realizes she is off course from her intention. There is a moment of a despair, of frustration in the realization. But getting lost, it seems, is often how we find the most beautiful moments in our writing.
Keep that in mind when you think your writing is going somewhere you had not planned. It may in fact be going exactly where it needs to go. And when it gets there, won’t you be surprised at what you see?