Thursday, 1 October 2015

"TRANSPORTED"? by Penny Dolan

Tomorrow I’m driving from home  – Yorkshire - all the way down to a pub near Reading. It’s a journey of four hours or more and at the end there won’t be any stressful author visit but a long, chatty lunch with friends and a nicely relaxed evening.

I’m also looking forward to the journey itself, not because of the beautiful autumnal landscapes but because of what happens while I’m "in transit": all sorts of unbidden thoughts suddenly start singing out in my mind. 

Worried readers, note that my eyes are definitely on the road. I’m aware of the traffic ahead, alongside and behind, and my attention is fixed on the work of the drive. I keep making sure of that, and I don’t give in to the reverie.

Yet something can happen, occasionally. A half-forgotten writing idea surfaces or a plot exposes a crass stupidity or a character suddenly reveals a new trait or personal voice. Now and again, while driving, I find pathways out of a current story mire.

Rail travel can be even more productive, offering both time and a place to write down such thoughts, but trains aren't always practical or undisturbed or cheap. Last time I was “transported”, I went a few further stops on the London Underground.
There is of course, one obviously big flaw in the “ideas on the move” activity. How, when these sparks of wisdom flash into the head, can they be remembered? I look out for a lay-by or service station. Edge-of-town supermarkets help too.  

I park up for a while, scribbling cryptic messages down on post-it notes or paper scraps. Then my only worry is whether the words are decipherable when I’m back home again. There's a box in my workroom all ready for such random ideas.

This idly-useful noodling needn’t be travel-related: any task that occupies the hands can work, whether potato-peeling, or knitting, or tidying the shed, or whatever you like that is similarly mindless. While one part of the brain is occupied, the rest frees itself to do some serendipitous pondering. What a useful trick!

When I set off into the sunrise tomorrow, I’ll be hoping for some soft whispers of inspiration. I must add that I’ll be watching the road very carefully too, so it will be quite safe for you all to go out as well.

Ps. Back home again. The traffic wasn’t easy – a couple of nasty accidents - so, despite this post, nothing inspiring popped up this time. That was partly my fault for listening to the radio, not the silence, on the way, Even so, the brain feels quite refreshed for tomorrow. Onward!

Penny Dolan


Joan Lennon said...

It's true - and aren't brains weird?! Trust in the weirdness, is a good mantra when the inspiration stalls (see what I did there) ...

Sue Purkiss said...

I like the idea of a box for ideas! Will put it into action forthwith. I'm not relaxed enough about driving, though, to get many good ideas on the road.

Penny Dolan said...

I did wonder about posting this idea. Maybe I should have labelled it "use with care, in minimal traffic and with appropriate levels of attention?"

However, I do know that, for me, there are TWO dangerous driving slots linked to school visits. One period is just after leaving home, when my head is still slightly occupied with the business of packing - have I go this or that item? - or the plans - will that session really work? That's when I force myself to calm down, put the anxieties aside, and really pay attention.

My second danger point happens just as I leave the school. I may well have spent half a day or more in the story zone, making up imaginary stories or dreaming up poems with the children. In the process, I'll have blocked out the real world - the various passers by in the hall, the odd bells, the trolleys of PE equipment and so on - which means that, as I leave the school gates, I really make myself focus VERY hard on the driving! Otherwise all those traffic signals - like red lights, or heavy lorries - can seem to be almost as unreal as the distractions inside.

I make both of those my big traffic worry moments.

Richard said...

This is so true. Driving is great for engaging the left brain and allowing the imagination to free-wheel. My latest creation was designed almost entirely in the car and in bed. Have you considered a dictaphone? Hands-free, of course.

Penny Dolan said...

Richard, glad it's not only me! I considered a dictaphone a long while ago, but decided that devices and driving don't mix - there's too much switching things on and off again for full attention on the road, given my level of aptitude level. Besides, the story ideas could well be threaded through with uncouth driver comments. :-)

Sheena Wilkinson said...

I drive a lot and I often have the conversations that are going to be in my books aloud with myself in the car.

Penny Dolan said...

Love the idea of so many people driving around gently muttering their stories, and while keeping their eyes fixed firmly on the road.

Richard said...

The amateur radio fraternity have largely solved the issues. They use a boom microphone with a toggle switch on the gear stick. Radio microphones are exempt from the mobile phone laws but, having tried it a couple of times, it's far too dangerous for me. A hands-free kit works well. On the other hand in a quick google this morning, I couldn't find a portable dictophone that would accept a hands-free switch; they use voice activation, which is likely to fail badly in a noisy car.

Lynne Benton said...

Thanks for your mention of Most Dangerous Driving Slots - will bear those in mind when I do my next school visit!