I first heard of the Road to Santiago (there’s a longer name for it in Spanish that I always forget) a few years ago. I was watching something on TV about Shirley MacLaine, and how she’d done this pilgrimage and it changed her life. I supposed there are infinite life-changing opportunities, from the smallest to the largest moments, but this was an idea that caught my attention. Maybe having grown up in Colorado where we regularly tackle mountains for the fun of it, the idea of walking 500 miles along an old road to get to an equally old Spanish city in the name of personal transformation seemed like an adventure.
It still does.
In fact, when I discovered Paulo Coelho and his wonderful books, I re-discovered this trek through him – because he’d done it, and written about it. And I admired him and what he stood for. I want to be able to claim an undertaking such as this – not for bragging rights, but for myself. Because somehow these undertakings always change everything.
I’m getting ready to hike Grays and Torreys Peaks tomorrow. No doubt my hip flexors will seize up in pain from years of dance-world abuse. No doubt that half-way up I’ll enter into a serious war with my mind about not wanting to go any further. And no doubt that once I reach the summit, I will be glad as hell I did it. Not 500 miles, not Spain…just a little piece of my state and a six-hour cleansing of the soul.
In the words of Coelho:
“The Signs – at times imperceptible, at others very clear – are all around us. But they require careful interpretation if they are to be transformed into a road map.” (Manual of a Warrior of Light)
My road map is still being drawn. But it could include, some day, the Road to Santiago.
I didn’t really know what blind inspiration was – when it came to writing – until I went through a break-up that changed my life. And part of why my life changed is because I wrote myself out of the darkness. In doing this, I re-wrote the story. I took the characters whom I knew well and shifted their paths, found their reasons to grow and move forward on the pages. I didn’t fully realize what I’d done until after I’d done it.
I’m looking for that same inspiration again. I have an idea for a third novel and have done some preliminary research. But I’m waiting for that hook into my soul. You know, you fellow writers: the reason why some of us carry around a notebook ready to jot down an idea…the reason why some of us like to sit in a room full of people, content to be in silence so that we can just observe. My friends have started asking me, “Am I going to be a character in your next book?” The answer is always “no.” You won’t be a character, but your alter-ego might.
Of course, if you’re a jellyfish, a 30-something architect from Portland, a young man married to a Hollywood starlet, an eight-year-old boy, or a small-town teenager (wait, there are seven of you) – to name a few – then you’re already in.
But I’m open to new ideas. If you can be the hook to my soul, then let me know.
So my goal over the next month or so is to do another big push to agents with my first novel “Skin.” I’ve heard about a website where you can post your query, and subscribing agents will receive it and then contact you if interested – a backwards way of doing things, but apparently a way that has worked for some. I think I’ll give this a try, in addition to the traditional query letter in the mail…or perhaps as a full-on, brazen substitute.
But in the larger sense of things, is it really all that backwards to do it this way? We constantly put ourselves out there on MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn – all the social networking outlets where we say “This is who I am – now come to me.” And it works. Sometimes it works in ways we weren’t even expecting (people accidentally fall in love because of MySpace). Not to mention my own participation in this thought process: look at what I’m doing by having this website!
But I will say that I still approach the connected world of the internet with a grain of suspicion. Did my electronic query even land in the inbox of Ms. Fabulous New York Agent? Or did it stop dead in its tracks due to some unknown but sinisterly operating bug in the notification system? Hey, I work with websites every day. I know what happens.