Writing on the road

Silk’s Post #4 — Sunday night, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Nantucket bookstore window

We lead mobile lives. Our modern world is built for travel. We think nothing of flying thousands of miles for a two week vacation. Or putting the pedal to the metal as we speed through a couple of time zones on a superhighway. It’s so easy.

Oh, we might have to hang around an uncomfortable airport waiting area for a few hours, eating forgettable but expensive snacks. Or play restroom roulette on the road. But compare that to sailing around the Horn in a clipper ship.

And though we’re travelling more than ever, we’re no longer really getting away. We’re tethered to our “regular” lives – our work, our families, our obligations – with invisible electronic chains. Mobile phones, laptops, tablets, the Internet. Miles away, we’re still as close to home as the nearest cell phone tower or WiFi signal. (As close to home, and as close to every other point on Earth.)

Our world may be built for travel, but we’re still the same old people. Or at least, I am. I’m easily distracted by things like waking up in Vancouver and going to bed in Boston on the same day. Tonight, five days into a trip back East, I still haven’t written a word since I took off. Until now.

Writing on the road should be so easy. It’s the ultimate portable craft. I have every tool needed, except the most critical one: a focused mind.

I did try. Full of resolve, I packed my laptop on the plane, determined to make progress during the five hour flight from Vancouver to Houston. (Houston? Yes, unfortunately. Flying on points has its little annoyances.) What was I thinking? I found myself in a centre seat on a fully packed aircraft, strangers on both sides of me. Okay, tight, but not impossible – if I could just pretzel my body in such a way as to retrieve the laptop stowed (as required by the Airplane Rules of Order) under the seat in front of me, without putting my head in the lap of the man to my left.

I managed to wiggle the laptop into grabbing position with my feet and extract it, like an unwilling tooth, without giving myself a black eye on the armrest. Ah, success! Then just as I liberated it from its sleeve and started to pry it open, the traveller in front of me was apparently struck by a powerful urge to nap, flinging his seat back as far as it could incline. This only allowed me to open my laptop approximately five inches – just enough to glimpse the keyboard (but not the screen). Grrrr. The rest of the flight was spent reading, casting the evil eye on the seat ahead of me, and losing my enthusiasm for trying to write on planes.

I’m sorry to say the layover in Houston and the four-hour flight to Boston were no more productive than the first leg of the trip. And then a whirlwind weekend to celebrate a milestone birthday with lifelong friends and their clan ensued. It was a happy, noisy, magical, moveable feast for 30 on the shores of Hyannis Bay, with a side trip to Nantucket. A memorable experience to write about, not one to sit out while writing about something else.

Midnight now, and I have some alone-time, sitting up in bed in the hotel room, TV babbling in the background, my sleeping husband adding his own sound effects beside me. I struggle to summon the writing muse and get some words down. But all I manage to call forth is the assistant muse responsible for blogs. I tap out my mea culpa.

My on-the-road lament: no prose again today.

This makes me wonder: how do these amazingly productive writers do it? These authors who are rewriting their soon-to-be-published new book, while outlining the one after that, and showing up at writers’ conferences, and doing interviews and book tours for the title that has just hit the bookshelves? The ones who say they write every day, no matter what. Even those days when they’re stuck in airports, or doing their tax returns, or busy falling in love, or having their gall bladder out, or hosting dozen people for dinner, or dealing with life’s daily emergencies.

That takes relentless passion. And heroic discipline.

I think I have the passion. I just hope to find the discipline along the road. The journey I want to take is not for the faint of heart – or the easily distracted.

4 thoughts on “Writing on the road

  1. Oh Silk, you so made me laugh with this one, from your account of your torturous journey to Boston to the gall bladder account at the end. Been there, done that! Happy writing on your return journey, you out did yourself with this most entertaining post!

  2. I have screwed up biorhythms that get me up early in the morning, even if I’m exhausted. That’s my best time for writing, no matter where I am, because the normal people (everyone else) are still sleeping. If you’re a night owl, you might write after it gets dark, instead of while it’s still dark. Coffee isn’t as costly as gas, so it’s doable either way, even after gall bladder surgery, once the drugs wear off.

  3. Haha — okay Jerry, I get that you don’t have much sympathy with whiners! Maybe I need a biorhythm transplant. I have the running-on-coffee thing down pat already. 🙂

    Paula, thanks for the laughter my friend!

  4. While you’re on Cape Cod, enjoy “Croaked: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery”! (http://www.Boom-Books.com) And stop by the fascinating Edward Gorey House museum on Strawberry Lane in the beautiful old seaport village of Yarmouth Port. Both should help kick-start your writing…along with the foliage, which must be inspiring right now…

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