You’ve diligently worked your fingers, and your brain, for fifty weeks and now it’s time to rest. You’ve packed your leisure duds, your camera, your scuba gear, hiking boots, bicycling togs, whatever, and you’re ready to take off.
Did you unplug the computer? A surge protector protects for only one surge and you aren’t going to be around to put in a new fuse. Did you pack all essential gear? Are you sure?
How about those pocket notepads? Pens? Charcoal? A sketch pad? Tracing paper? Hey! This is a vacation!
Fortunately, or unfortunately, (depending on your POV – Point Of View) your mind does not go on vacation. Your memory does, however – and often. Every experience a writer has is grist for their personal story mill. No photograph can capture the ‘feel’ of sunrise over Nantucket or the sunset over Catalina. You cannot photograph the whispers of the gods that may come to you within the cloud-shroud on top of Old Smokey, or the twitter of mermaids in the Costa Rican twilight.
Ghosts reside in most National Parks. Can you hear them? Will you remember what they said on that distant day when you need them for your current story?
That dilapidated cabin over there might be a perfect setting for a someday story but, unless you make a rough sketch, unless you jot down your inner impressions, you will not be able to call it to mind.
Years from now, when you dust off a box from your attic and look at your ‘essential’ vacation photos, how will you remember exactly why you took them if you don’t have notes to copy only the back of them after they’re processed?
OK – now you have the hang of it. “But, why tracing paper?” you say.
For historical writers, the tracing paper is an essential piece of equipment. Natural historians, and that is what most of us are, spend a lot of time prowling old cemeteries and museums – vacation or no. There will come a time when your tracings of interesting epitaphs and monument inscriptions will be invaluable to you.
You simply cannot catch the essence of an old tombstone by jotting the epitaph down. The style of lettering alone may provide needed inspiration for a story. A reproduction of a tracing may be what sells an editor on your story. “Here lies Jim Smith. He called Joe Barnes a liar.” loses its punch without the crocked, hand-carved, misspelled lettering.
The uniqueness of the inscription on a nineteenth century monument, in some-town, south-somewhere, does not come across without the endlessly curled letters and minute, carved art of the original. And, a twenty-first (almost) photograph will not do its heights and shadows justice. For that you need charcoal and tracing paper.
Now that I’ve turned your vacation into work, I’ll take mine – right here – at my keyboard – working for travel money so I can soon follow my own advice.