by: Michael Hendricks
In 2014, I took a three day backpacking trip through the sand dunes bordering Lake Michigan. It was my first camping with friends. I borrowed a pack from a friend of my father’s. It was in rough shape, and I tried to fill it twice over with all of the ‘essentials’ while preventing any more damage to its torn exterior. Three notebooks, my parent’s camera, pocketknife, a secondary water bottle, an extra set of clothes, and multiple types of sunscreen at the request of other campers. I was overly ambitious. I took a few pictures of the lake and filled out roughly three pages of my notebook. My tent mate, on the other hand, had gaged his ambition properly and brought nothing - no tent or sleeping bag. Luckily, he remembered to bring clothes, and one of our friends had managed to snag an extra sleeping bag. But at night, he would be relegated to my tent.
That night, it stormed, soaking all of our things and even getting some of our food in the process. I was glad to be alive, since the newest addition to my living space had rolled over in his sleep, crushing me in the process. I spent the remainder of my time awake building a barrier between us. The next day was spent hiking, gathering bug bites, and more crossdressing than I had anticipated. I guess that’s what I get for having friends who want to see me in a small pair of women’s overalls.
I don’t tell this story to examine my relationship with nature, or how my legs looked in those overalls. I tell it because I was surrounded by other creatives. While it was raining on the day of our arrival, I heard someone playing the guitar from several tents over. My friend Jas pulled out her camera and added more photos to her portfolio. She now runs her own photography business. As she snapped away, another was sketching the horizon on a small notebook. Back in camp, another friend, known as the residential filmmaker, devised a project that required my friend AJ and I to switch clothes for their day. At first, I was plagued with writer’s block and hadn’t written anything substantial in days. That night, I had my breakthrough.
I was sitting around the fire, staring at the embers as they flickered. My mentor, Adam, sat beside me. He asked me how I was enjoying the trip. I shook off the question, admitting my disappointment.
“I just don’t know if I’m any good or not,” I said.
“That’s your problem. You’re focused on something that’s constantly changing. Don’t make it good, just make it honest.”
It's been five years since that trip and I now realize that Adam was onto something more than he let on. It's not all about being honest to my characters and their development, but rather to my vision and the story I'm trying to tell. Sometimes that means diving head first into my writing without acknowledging my fear of the unknown. Sometimes it's just the opposite. You see, writing is a process that stems from memories, thoughts, and emotion. A story is a mere summation of these things. And if I'm not being honest with myself, am I really telling the best story?
Michael Hendricks is a freelance author/editor based out of the Midwest. As a recent graduate from Western Michigan University, he specializes in fantasy and realistic fiction. When he’s not editing for Butcher Papers and for his friends, he can be found working on a collection of short stories or tripping over his own feet. He hopes to publish the collection later this year, and refuses to recognize the fallacies in such a claim. He can be reached for business inquiries at email@example.com
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