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!