I blame my father for this. We were up visiting him last September and he casually suggested that I should try travel writing. I smiled and nodded and didn’t think too much at the time, but the seed had been planted. I always thought of myself as a fiction writer, someone who comes up with novels and short stories. But, driving back from Washington things were different and I couldn’t stop thinking about what my father had suggested.
I remember that I was sitting in our room trying to figure something out. Frustrated, I picked up one of my notebooks and started writing in it–I just started scribbling away and half an hour later I had this rough plan for a book about the deserts of the western United States. It had come out of nowhere and I was amazed that I had never thought of it before; combining two loves of mine, writing and the desert.
I don’t remember being fascinated by the desert as a kid. This interest seemed to come to life in my mid-twenties when I was working at this mortgage company back in Petaluma, California. Back then my idea of a good time was to rent a car for a weekend and drive down to Barstow or Death Valley or Blythe, places most people think of as hell on earth. They were desolate and hot and you saw a lot of poverty in the towns, but it felt like home. It felt like my being there made sense. It was something that resonated with me and yet I never really wrote about it; my journals from back then were about details like how much the rental cars cost or the number of miles I drove but nothing about what I was experiencing inside. This time it will be different; in the coming months and years I will put all those feelings and perceptions into words. Why didn’t I do that back then? Who knows. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to happen until now, combining these two great loves of mine. Creativity is weird. I don’t begin to understand it, I just try to go with it and appreciate it when it crosses my mind.