Like my good friend Taylor, I love adventures. Having them and reading about them. Whether real or imagined adventures stir something deep in my heart. Be it Robert Scott setting out for the South Pole with but a few companions dragging sledges across the ice – which ended badly – or Indiana Jones getting the first clue – which ended well – adventures grab us.
One of my favorite adventure stories, which happens to be a movie, is National Treasure. It is a perfect adventure story. There is mystery. Bad guys. Massive stakes. Romance. Conflict within the group. Multiple lines of tension. A wonderful ending. It has it all and is perfectly paced with excellent characterization. I like to cast my writer’s journey in the context of National Treasure.
I’m Benjamin Gates. I’ve been doing this for a long time and for a long time haven’t gotten much closer to my goal. Some people think I’m nuts. But I know the treasure is out there because I keep finding ‘clues.’ I keep discovering my weaknesses. Weaknesses in my approach. Weaknesses in my craft. And as I discover them I think, I’m almost there! But until recently I hadn’t even found the Charlotte.
Not long ago I acquired some companions on my quest. Riley Poole and Abigail Chase if you will. I’ll let Terri and Taylor fight over who is who. They’d probably say I’m Riley and they might be right. But suddenly it wasn’t “I” anymore, it was “we,” and we found the Charlotte. We found her together. But Benjamin Gate’s father was always there, whispering in my ear “It’s just another clue. And that clue will lead to another clue… And another clue… Don’t throw your life away…” You know, adventurers have many chances to quit. Especially when the clues don’t seem to be going anywhere. Finding each clue takes personal sacrifice. Each clue takes money, and time, and dedication. And a simple daily decision that says: “I will continue the journey because I believe.
Pikes Peak Writers Conference was huge. We met people. We learned things. For whatever reason my timidness receded and I found myself boldly asking the right questions of important people, like the incredible Andrea Brown. Terri, too – though she’s never been timid. Some of the best names in the business sat right there and answered my questions. Joanna Volpe, Denise Little, Sharyn November, Elizabeth Hand, John Hart, and others. Some of them even requested my material. And Terri and I learned what we’ve been doing wrong. More importantly, we learned how to fix it. And when it’s fixed we have receptive ears.
How do you decide to spend $1,000+ on a writers conference in a bad economy when Ben Gate’s dad is sitting in the Trinity Church calling out, “It’s just another clue…”? You choose to believe. And all of a sudden, Terri and I find ourselves on the winding stair, a point at which Ben Gates and his companions knew they were on the right track. It was no longer a matter of finding the next clue. It was a matter of staying alive. And by that time there was no turning back.
Terri and I now have a year’s worth of work to do in two months, in addition to our day jobs. The candles are burning. The stair is collapsing around us. It’s scary. And we can’t turn back. Sure, we could sit down to rest but that would only lead to darkness when our candles burned down. The treasure is close. All those times in the past when I thought I was close, I can look back and see that I wasn’t. This is different. We don’t need any more clues. The path is clear, but difficult. All we have to do is survive. And what lies at the end? A few trinkets? A chest full of gold? The treasure of the ages? It’s like I heard time after time at the conference. “It isn’t about being there, it’s about getting there.” It’s the people you meet along the way. After all, how much fun would National Treasure have been if it was just Benjamin Gates?