We all know that sticking our nose in a device to read and answer messages while we drive is akin to driving while impaired, or worse. But safe texting while driving is something I’ve done for years.
A lot of writers talk of their routine of “Butt in Chair” (BIC) from something o’clock to whatever o’clock, period. They don’t allow themselves any break because this is their designated “writing time.” Then their walk to the park or museum, or a long, pretty drive, is their reward for time spent in that chair. It’s a discipline thing, and I get that. But isn’t that precious time often wasted? Both sitting in a chair and accomplishing nothing and later re-energizing the brain and thinking about what, recipes?
In my car, there is a pad of paper and a pen on the seat next to me. Remember paper? Pens? They are awesome inventions. I get in the car and drive. We are very fortunate to have a winding gravel road that almost nobody uses except for me and one of our neighbors, and we haven’t collided yet! Here’s a map of the six-mile route (it takes me a little longer than 16 minutes):
And here’s the view:
The idea is to get away from the chair for a while if you’re stuck, but don’t forget about what you’re working on. Instead, leave with an unresolved problem in your head. “Why would she say that?” “What does she do when this happens?” “What will happen next?” Getting out of the work surroundings and into a quiet place inside your head (no checking the device!) with that nagging unanswered question in mind can often lead to some interesting answers.
Some will pull over, which is a good idea if you’re not on a road like ours. Others, like me, will simply jot key words with eyes on the road, only legible to us sometimes (especially true if you’re left handed since the pad is to the right), to remind us of our brainstorms. We can worry about the details later. Plus, there is something about keeping it simple that keeps the ideas fresh. And I can’t wait to get back in that chair and write lots of words!
For instance, when writing BUG!, a picture book I recently sold (more about that later), I got in my dusty old car one day with the question, “What funny thing happens when the crickets get away?” And while I wound through the countryside, an idea popped up. I wrote “teacher” “curly hair” and “aggregate” and then laughed so hard I did have to pull over. That brainstorm even made it to the edited version of the story.
These are the happy moments in writing, and they can often happen when we make them happen, in a sneaky, tricky sorta way. Now it’s time to take a drive!