Thursday, July 14, 2011

Work in Progress: The Beginning of a Surprising Summer

I’ve quoted one of my favorite writing teachers, Richard Bausch, about a zillion times a zillion different ways (and students think I’m smart…nope, just smart enough to steal from the best).

By far my favorite quote of his is, “Write until something surprises you.” That’s when you know it’s good: you’re surprised, and undoubtedly the reader will be surprised too. That doesn’t mean go around searching for wacky, oddball surprises like anvils dropping out of the sky…but write honestly and openly and, yes, something WILL surprise you.

I think about this quote often, but I’m especially thinking of it now because I recently bought a tent.

I can hear it now: I didn’t know you camped! That seems so…not something you’d ever do. Bugs? Creepy (or absent) bathrooms? Exposure to weather? Freeze-dried food packets? No showers? Correct--none of those things is for me. I do not camp.

And yet I bought this little two-person tent because—and this is the literal truth—I was watching TV and saw several times a commercial for Target where kids start playing with summer toys and beach stuff in the Target aisles and some attractive hipsters pop open a tent. This is exactly when I decided to buy a tent (yes, at Target), and on Monday, I found exactly the tent I needed.

What a surprise! Having this tent makes me so happy for the following reasons:

1. I feel ready for the apocalypse, especially since I bought a tarp to go underneath the tent to keep dry(ish) and a cute little battery powered lantern.

2. I think it will be fun to sleep out in the backyard this summer. Or it will be fun to try to sleep.

3. I surprised myself.

Surprises are fun, and why wait for someone to surprise you? I’m going to try to do something surprising once a week for the rest of the summer, though I’m already desperately fighting away my urge to plan out all these forthcoming surprises. We’ll see…in the meantime, let me know if you’d like a spot around my metaphorical backyard campfire.

Pertinent link:
Here’s the infamous Target ad:
(If the tent doesn’t work for me, I suspect the Slip-n-Slide is next)


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.