Writing on the fly, the journey and the suited man

I often liken the act of writing a story to that of undertaking a journey. Both are more often than not prepared for in advance, be it the stocking of supplies (coffee?), planning the route to take; perhaps even noting the people we are to meet as well as the events we wish to partake in. Yet, for all the planning, the journey may not go as envisioned. There may be delays, hiccups or events unexpected. But is this not also part of what makes a journey memorable, the turns that lead us off the beaten path into realms unknown to us?

It is this unknown quantity that concerns me today.

Here, sitting in my living room, pen and paper by my side (I am currently without the benefits that a laptop brings … thank you cat), I am about to take my first steps into new territory, where I shall walk along paths that no map has defined, nor explorer discovered. The path is mine alone and my destination uncertain. I am of course referring to – for want of a better – making it up on the fly.

Such an undertaking can be littered with pitfalls; wrong turns, dead ends and roads that whilst on first sight seem an attractive proposition, lead to nowhere. But, just as an impromptu journey in life brings with it the exhilaration and excitement of the unknown, so too can it be with writing.

There’s something enticing in not knowing what happens next; in discovery and the anticipation thereof. What will I see, learn and experience? A planned story (one in which chapters, character sheets and plot points are pre-prepared) can of course be beneficial, especially when it comes to longer works, such as novels. But I have found extensive preparation sees my excitement dwindle and my urge to see the project through to its fruition lessen. Why take the journey if you already know what it to be experienced?

So, here I am, throwing caution to the wind.

I find myself in what appears to be a desert; a wilderness as vast and inhospitable as the night sky that sits above it; dunes rising and falling in each direction, their flow broken here and there by heat shattered stones that sit like bleached whales, dead upon some ancient and long forgotten shore. A place of nullity and silence; a void, desolate and absolute.

No, not quite desolate.

Someone is keeping step with me. Another traveller. A man dressed in a grey suit that at one time would have been considered elegant and fashionable, but now has become worn and outdated, the jackets hem frayed, the sleeves stained. He carries an opened bottle and from the smell of his breath I guess it to be brandy. He raises it to his lips every ten yards or so but offers me none. Not that I would take it. I stop, taking a moment to gather my breath, but the suited man continues onwards, his leather brogues ill-equipped for the journey leaving a trail in his wake. I watch him make his way haphazardly across the landscape; the suited man with the brandy in his hand.

I have no idea where the man is going or what, if anything he will find there amongst the dunes. And that is the beauty of writing on the fly. I am sharing his discoveries, his travels; his adventure. So, I will follow him a while, and come the end of the journey, hopefully I will have a story to recount that is worth the telling.

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