Tuesday, May 10, 2011

in which i let my senses guide me

In Paris, Anthony Bourdain chose to let his senses guide him instead of his itinerary. In San Francisco, I did the same.

Here's what I remember from that night: I was tired and weary. A few days in a new city at a professional conference filled with information and networking while eagerly waiting a to hear about a new dream-job opportunity and writing daily on a new blog will do that to you. I was pushing forward into new territory in a lot of senses, so my grand plans for tromping around San Francisco weren't quite as realized as I'd hoped.

But there was a photography exhibit at a boutique that had been at the top of my list, so I went. After a metro ride and a long walk to the store, I found myself done with the exhibit and invigorated by the walk through the neighborhood: I was ready to explore. To let my senses guide me.

And here is where they took me: to a Buffalo Exchange, where I almost bought a cute pair of boots. To a gastropub for wine and a burger. And, serendipitously, to a used bookstore I'd read about in the New York Times the week before.

Like most used bookstores, this one was small and unpretentious. The love for books in these places is almost palpable. The books, though cast off by their original owners, are lovingly and painstakingly sorted, priced, displayed -- and, eventually, reclaimed as treasures. I know my routine when I'm in a used bookstore: literature first, then non-fiction or essay, whatever they call it. And poetry and cookbooks. Here there was a clearance section, with new books that were discounted.

That's where I found it: a book about New Journalism -- interviews with nonfiction writers on their craft. The title threw me off a bit (I knew little about the genre of new journalism). And though I like a deal, discounts make me suspicious. But for $5, I decided to take a chance on it.

Back at the hotel, it was the first one of my purchase that I cracked open. Delighted by the introduction, I read the first interview the next day at the airport. I really couldn't believe my luck. The kind of writing being described was exactly what I'd like to do: nonfiction story-telling that combines the reporting and research methods of journalism with the literary craft of fiction writing. I guess I knew it existed without realizing there was a whole genre and following devoted to it.

Over the past five months I've slowly made my way through these interviews, savoring each tip and technique, each insight into the how, why and what of these writers' craft. I've underlined, tabbed, dog-eared and quoted. I'm grateful for all the nuggets I've culled from the book. But more, I'm awed by this God-given signpost in my journey into writing. In there is a confirmation that my desire can lead me to the places I need to be, and that God is in that process. That God is a creator and backer of my internal sensors for joy, delight and creativity.

It's a reminder to let my itinerary go and let my senses guide me.

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