On the day before the new year, I regularly go with friends out into the woods to look for geocaches. Every year we plan a route and then take off early in the morning to set a “most found” record. This year was no different. One of the brethren picked an area to search that had a lot of little caches.
We drive all over looking for containers in the woods. Most of the containers are small and ordinary. They usually contain a log to sign and some other little trinket. Every once in a while though, we find a larger, more interesting container. A container that itself has a story. A container that the owner obviously put some thought and care into building and placing in the woods. These containers often hold interesting treasures. Items that we want to trade. Items that are traveling the world. Items with a story.
As the day wears on, we come across a string of small green containers that are all hidden essentially the same way and all look identical. None of them have much in the way of treasure .The descriptions ask for detailed logs, but the caches themselves were boring like prepackaged gingerbread men. Good to eat, but not terribly interesting. In the early afternoon we all begin to lose interest. We all grow restless for the bigger and better containers. We want something more.
For me, writing is kind of like that.
I start out sort of knowing where I want to go, but not really knowing what to expect when I get there. I’m looking for little treasures that catch my attention. Usually I find a lot of things that are functional but not always interesting. I wander around the page, looking for the thing that clicks, the thing that will take the story in a new and wonderful direction.
As I poke around the tulies looking for treasure, every once in a while I find a “container” that holds some real treasure. It is one that holds the right phrase or image or metaphor that takes the story in a direction that makes me tingle. I find myself taking some time with that find, exploring it a little more fully. It’s these “containers” that keep me writing to find the next one.
In geocaching, having friends along makes the experience better. It gives a sense of safety. Sharing in the find makes each one a small celebration. Writing is more of a solitary sport when the hunt is going on. Writing, for me, feels safer when there is no one watching over your shoulder. So it goes in writing, having an audience is both risky, but it’s comforting as well. It gives us the opportunity to share and celebrate along the way.
After searching for hundreds of caches it has become clear that the creators who spend some time preparing the containers or finding great settings in which to hide their treasures tend to capture the imaginations of those who search. In that regard, it is also clear that as we create here we need to take some time and care in preparing and giving our audience a memorable experience that brings them back, anxiously looking for more.