This may seem like a bit of a cheat, but it actually isn’t since this really is one of my primary creative workspaces. I’m still in the midst of a draft, and the office is still in the midst of excavation, so this week I’m showing you my car.
So here’s the deal. My kid takes forever to fall asleep. Once she’s asleep, she’s golden. But before that, she’s a grouch who cares only about hearing “Old McDonald” and his great big farm (“…with a dinosaur here, and a dinosaur there….”) and scooting around in circles on the floor.
Our solution has long been to go for nap drives. (Let’s not talk about gas prices, shall we?) We both get to discover new and exciting places (read: petting zoos and hiking trails), I get to think and listen to my music, and she gets to direct epic dramas in her car seat with her stuffed animals until she drifts off. (“Oh, no! Save me, Cow! Save me, Duck! I’ll save you! Zzzzz….”)
Anyway, these days “thinking time” is valuable time, and so I often use driving time to scheme and plot and…well, write. But don’t worry. I have a safe approach.
Post-Its of current scenes I’m working on go on the dashboard. I jot down what needs to be worked out in each scene and slap ‘em up there. Once they’re up there, I don’t really look at them too much. Mostly they’re there to keep me on mental track as I have a terrible tendency to daydream far, far afield. Honestly, I think just the act of writing down what I need to focus on for each scene is the real trick to keeping me on track.
Besides my bulletin-board dashboard, I also utilize the passenger seat which contains all the equipment I need: my hand-held tape-recorder. I am aware that there are dozens of voice recorder apps available for my phone, but I still use the old microcassette set-up because I can feel the “record” button and still keep my eyes on the road. And besides…in California, it is a ticketable offense to be caught texting or talking on your cell phone while driving.
Snippets of dialogue, scene structure, anything and everything related to whatever scene I’m working on — or even scenes in other projects — go on that recorder. I don’t usually have to go back and listen. Seems the act of pressing “record” and saying things out loud helps me remember whatever it is I need to remember when I finally get in front of the computer.
Next drive out, however, I’m going to focus on developing my dictation skills, see how that goes. I remember watching an attorney in a waiting room rattle off a legal argument into his recorder with absolutely no sense of self-consciousness. Honestly, I was amazed. I was impressed by his ability to write without having to see the words follow the input immediately, and I was doubly impressed with his ability to get quality work done in such a public place. He was not wasting any downtime. Definitely the markings of a professional.
It’s ridiculous how much I enjoy this ritual of ours. There’s something wonderful about being in the car — a fast-flying room flooded with sunlight and amazing views — thinking about stories. I hope the Toddler remembers these times fondly too. You’d be amazed at how quickly this kid can pack her stuffed animals up at the hint of a “bye-bye.”