Travel light

In the days when I did some backpacking in the Colorado mountains — where the air is much thinner than a flatlander such as myself is used to — a novice backpacking friend of mine spent days in advance at our base camp finding nooks and crannies in his pack for this or that little item that he “might need” or “enjoy having.” When you do backpack camping, you bring everything you will use to camp on your back. If you can’t carry it in, you do without it.

My attitude about this is that you can endure just about any hardship for a weekend, so I tend to pack light. In fact, another friend of mine and I discussed the lengths some hard-core backpackers go to achieve this. We both had read about people who will cut off the handles of their toothbrushes and put their salt and pepper in small plastic bags (rather than carry the weight of shakers). At first we thought this zeal to be comical, but my friend then observed that if you took everything in your fifty-pound pack and somehow managed to shave 30% from each item, you’d save yourself fifteen pounds, and after a day on the trail, fifteen saved pounds can mean a lot.

This was not the philosophy of my other friend though. He unzipped the many capacious pockets on his pack and found space for extra granola bars or a container of baby powder. More batteries for his flashlight. An extra pair of sunglasses. He was determined to get away from it all and take it all with him, as the saying goes.

As you might imagine, my friend suffered terribly on his maiden backpacking trip. Every extra ounce weighed on his feet and constricted his lungs. He was tormented by his weighty choices and vowed never to pack like that again. As far as I know, he never did either, and that brings me to my work in progress, The Sleep of Reason.

I’m immersed in the rewrite into the third person narration, which is essential for telling the story behind my story. (It will make every single word I’ve written have a deeper and more terrible meaning.) The process is steady, but it’s slow. It is taking time, and an unfortunate consequence of this sprawl of time is that I continue to realize ways that I could “improve” the story or develop the characterization even further. (Right now, for example, I’m exploring ways to make my theme more existentialist.) I am a long way from rewriting the last chapter, and I’m finding ways to enhance it so that it will be even more meaningful.

Sure, this is the nature, and even the benefit, of rewriting, but when do I shout ENOUGH? I have a coherent and whole story. I have solid characters. I have already worked out the remaining needs of the telling. If I did no more to this story, I would be proud of what it accomplished, just as I am convinced it will be published.

So when do I draw the line and say this or that little enhancement won’t be going in? Yes, they might improve the story, but do I have the time and stamina to keep developing it?

I suppose the time to call a halt is when I am through with this draft. (I intend to go through it all one more time just to tinker with the narrative voice, and that will be it.) I have plenty of thoughts pouring into my brain for other stories, and I make my feverish notes about those. When the time comes, I’ll be able to start down the trail of a new work, so I guess I’ll continue to accept whatever enlightenments come my way on the WIP.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Humble efforts, Sleep of Reason

One Comment on “Travel light”

  1. Brian Keaney Says:

    I think you shout ‘enough’ when there is a definite possibility that you might kill anyone, including yourself, who suggests you do a tiny little bit more work on it.


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