My husband Gary and I recently finished two long car trips, one to Wisconsin the other to New Jersey, separated by only a week or so. As a result I have come to know something about myself. To wit: I like being someplace a lot more than I like going someplace.
The drive to Wisconsin was about eight hours long. To New Jersey, about 13 — though with some negotiating, we agreed on a two-day split for our East Coast journey. My maximum sell-by date during a car trip is about six hours. As the minutes ticked past the six-hour mark, Gary was subjected to increasingly bad-tempered commentary on how to drive, which turn to take, and queries as to why is it so hot? when are we going to eat? and are we ever getting there? I can combine the tenacious whininess of a 3-year-old with the verbal skill of an adult. Believe me, that is not a travel companion you want on the seat next to you.
Part of my dislike for long car trips is simply impatience with the close confines of a car, the frustration of road construction and the terror caused by other drivers, often in large trucks, who seem bent on testing my defensive driving skills. But mostly it’s that when I sit in a car for a long trip, I can see what I choose to ignore during my every day routine. As the miles slip away, time slips away and every curve in the road we leave behind, every hill we crest, every road we choose not to take are reminders of the way life changes and we move on – or get left behind. It’s not the length of the journey, it’s the shortness of life that bothers me.
Which is probably why I like getting home so much, where I can slip back into the routines that shape my day and fall back into the illusion that I hold time in my grasp, and not the other way around.
And so now that I’m home, am I making productive use of my time? Well, I’ve started seriously cranking out pages in the next Leah Nash mystery – tentatively titled and always subject to change, Dangerous Secrets. My self-assigned requirement is five pages a day – which doesn’t sound like much, I know. And truly some days it isn’t, and I blow right past that number. But then there are the bad days, when I spend six hours at the computer, barely eke out my allotted five pages, and most of them aren’t very good.
For me, starting a book requires a period of thinking and imagining and some research into whether what I’ve come up with is actually possible in real life. Then I let the ideas percolate in my subconscious for awhile, before I kick them around with family and friends. That stage of writing is pretty fun because it’s all brainstorming and possibilities. It might go something like me saying “Ok, so and so gets killed, and then blah, blah, blah, someone’s dad is in an accident and blah, blah, blah, and then it turns out that the killer is really the mayor, and blah, blah, blah, and in the end he can save himself or confess and save his wife.”
The really hard part comes when I have to fill in the gaps between my big picture ideas and the details I need to link story lines together. And that’s where I am now. And it’s way harder for me to write actual, plausible words and action then it is to say “blah, blah, blah.” But, I’m committed to doing the hard stuff. Unless, of course, someone distracts me with the offer of a road trip. At this stage in the process, six hours in front of a blank computer screen can actually make six hours in the car seem appealing.