Out in the woods the other day, what did I come upon? Bear scat. I was completely surprised, thought I knew what I was seeing, got down on the ground for a closer look. Yes, bear shit, I was sure. That was last Thursday. That was on the east side of Jacks Peak Park, not so very far from where I once saw bear a few hills away, but far enough. This morning on the west side of the park, more bear scat. Wait A Minute. There are no bears here. There are no bears in this park. Bears in Big Sur, maybe. The occasional lost bear who walks into a bar, maybe. But not here in so many years might as well not ever been here.
This is what writing is. That kind of surprise. You walk into your story or your poem armed with only a pen and a piece of clean paper, and you can’t know what you’re going to find. You might find a bear. Write to discover and not to prove what you already know. I wrote a whole book that way and found I knew more than I ever could have dreamed I did.
E. L. Doctorow said, “Write in order to find out what you’re writing.” And walk in order to find out who else walks where you do.