This past weekend, I took my family on our annual camping trip. Once again, we went to Deception Pass Park on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound. The park sits on the northwest corner of Whidbey at the foot of an 80-year-old, steel bridge that connects it to Fidalgo Island to the north. This idyllic setting is a great place to relax and get away from the frantic pace of everyday life. I love the hikes and the beautiful views of sunrises behind the bridge and sunsets into the Sound, both of which offer plenty of inspiration.
As a kid I spent most of my time outdoors with my brothers and friends playing in the woods. We explored every inch of the vast wooded area that surrounded our houses. We’d play games that relied most heavily on our imaginations rather than anything of the electronic kind, so it’s a great pleasure to see my own kids running around in the woods playing with nothing but what nature provides them. I hope they are similarly inspired by the overwhelming beauty and the excitement of discovery.
Such surroundings make me appreciate settings in the stories I write. As I walked through the overgrown, verdant paths that encircle the tip of Whidbey Island, I described what I saw in my head, flipping through my catalog of words looking for the right nouns and adjectives to capture my perspective perfectly – well, as perfectly as is reasonably possible because words don’t do the gorgeous Pacific Northwest much justice. My mind wandered lazily down paths that it doesn’t often have the time to explore. Story ideas popped and bloomed. The scenery reinvigorated my senses – exactly what a vacation should do.
Since I was camping, I didn’t write while I was away. Instead, I just let my mind run loose without any constraints – no need to write things down or leave myself a voice memo. I wasn’t worried about losing ideas. Instead, I knew that letting myself go like that would benefit me later. These scenes, feelings, and experiences would likely show up later in my writing. In the future, one of my characters will walk through the verdant paths of some old-growth wooded area and smile with wonder, recoil in fear, or any react in some way that is conducive to the story I’m writing. Stephen King is right – you have to read to get good at writing, but you also have to exercise your senses and relax every once in a while to keep a fresh perspective. I hope my vacation serves me well.