Owning Up and Honoring Impressions
Anyways, this little beast of a Word doc is growing by the day. It began not long after my return as a highlight reel of the best stories. When I ran out of those I went on to the second best stories. Then I began to bring in some characters in a more meaningful way. All of these stories were aligned chronologically and this was 'Manuscript #1'. I tediously read through this half inch thick stack of papers, making preliminary edits and taking note of where the story gets lost and what needs to be filled in. This comprehensive, start to finish, description of my thru hike is what I call 'Manuscript #2', which has recently been edited by my mother. I needed a fresh pair of eyes and an outside opinion to catapult me into 'Manuscript #3', the dreaded 'Manuscript #3'.
She came back with the growing stack of papers binder clipped together and inside were corrected comma splices, silly mistakes circled to be revised and then the tough news. "It's great," she said, because it could legitimately suck and she would still think its great because she'e my mom, "but it needs more heart." I knew immediately what she meant because I had known that before I even printed it out. It needed more of the love, more of the suffering, more of the blissful happiness. More about the people and who they were and what they meant to me. It needed more of the things that I suck so much at in life; vulnerability, openness, honesty, truth.
So here I stand. I had a grouping of stories that was a skeleton. I went back and built muscles, organs and skin over the skeleton with a second draft. The third time around, I am faced with bringing it to life. Facing feelings from the past in order to represent an honest truth about my time on the Appalachian Trail. I wasn't always pleasant and though I regret it, I can't change it. I must accept it. I must accept the things I can't understand and realize the importance of the impression left on me by those that were with me. These impressions need to shine through in the book and in order for them to do so, I must go searching for the truths behind them. How did I fall in love with Gonzo, a character so uncomfortably different than I? Why did I treat him so badly? Did I treat him especially badly or are lover's quarrels just more intense when you are both hiking in a cold, down pouring rain, on an empty stomach, down a treacherously steep mountain, with 1,500 miles of weariness behind you? I have to find the answer to all these questions. And then I must write about them.