JoAnn Gometz

Writing | Editing | Content Strategy

Hitting the Highway With #ProjectRoadWork

Over the last month, whenever I've told anyone what I'm planning, I've expected to hear, "Have you lost your mind?" So far, though, every single person has either responded with excitement and delight, or asked me if I'm excited. The answer to that is, "Yes, sort of. And also terrified."

That's because I'm veering off the traditional, pseudo-settled, and adult path. In fact, I'm hurtling off the merry-go-round in a way I couldn't have begun to imagine even a year ago, let alone two or three. 

You see, good stories, like lives well lived, demand some risk.

From the moment I decided to write Mr. Khanjani's story, I've begun to grow accustomed to throwing everything into the air and trusting that it will come down where it should. (If you now have the old Shaker song, "Simple Gifts," running through your head, I'm right there with you.) 

So far, that approach has worked out just fine. Masters degree: done. Gainfully employ oneself: done. Pursue health: working on it. All of these things have required forethought and flexibility, of course. But in general, each one has set up the next, and a certain amount of trust, prayer, and gut instinct has led me in what seems to be the right direction. Robert Frost would be proud. 

Now it's time to push the envelope. In order to finish the first full draft of the book and start pitching agents before the end of this year, audacity is required. So, in just a few weeks, I'll be embarking on a two- or three-month road trip around the U.S. and southern Canada to interview people who knew Mr. Khanjani, beyond the individuals with whom I've already spoken. While I may still have to make a few targeted trips after that, or conduct a few interviews over FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom, this will put me in a very good place to round out the story.

That might not seem like anything out of the ordinary, until you realize that I'm doing it without a net. I'm putting all of my worldly goods into storage and even selling or giving away a few things. After eight years in one place, I'm letting my lease expire. And I'll be working from the road with a few select clients. Thank goodness for Airbnb, Hotel Tonight, Priceline, and friends with couches.

What happens next? Well, I'm hoping that somewhere along this transcontinental jaunt, I'll find someplace I might like to live or someone who inspires me to stick around for a while. This is lifetime move number 21 for me, if I counted correctly, and I'd like to make sure there's a point to it. So as I'm writing, working, and exploring the continent, I'll be trying to keep my eyes and heart open (a challenge!), while also investigating fallback locations near oceans. 

At the moment, my soundtrack is Lauren Alaina's "Road Less Traveled." For an introvert with a shy streak and only half a plan, it's a good anthem.

Now, for the hashtag. At the prompting of my classmate and pal Karalee, who ran away from home and embarked on "Project Friend" a couple of years ago, this combined research trip and quest now has a name. "Project Interviewing People With Accents" is way too long, so #ProjectRoadWork it is. Yes, I'm working from the road. More importantly, I'm accepting that both book and life are under construction this summer.

I hope you'll come along for the ride.