Can anyone explain to me why inspiration always strikes when I’m stuck behind a steering wheel, heading down the highway at 75 mph, dodging tractor-trailers, dump trucks, motorcycles, stray deer, and God knows what else?
It is not exactly the quiet part of my day.
I’m forced to listen to a symphony of horns on my journey, a jarring melody ‘played’ by irate drivers vying for dominance on a congested highway. In an effort to mute the sounds of battle, I turn up the volume on my car radio. Being a news junkie, I’m listening to ‘Morning Joe’ and just about any other news talk show my Sirius channels throw my way. My mind is like a ping-pong ball – listening to the latest silliness in Washington, thinking about the 50 things I have to do as soon as I get into the office, trying to decide what I’m going to make for dinner in the evening, whether it is going to snow (rain, hail, sleet, drop frogs from the sky), and worries about what to get my sister for Christmas…
And then… KA-POW!
Suddenly – without warning – it hits me. It’s a HALLELUJAH moment!
Out of the blue, that ‘special’ character starts talking to me. Or that thorny problem that has plagued me for weeks with a certain plot line in my story begins to unravel itself into something clean and coherent. Or a new, seemingly brilliant story line appears before me like the Promised Land appeared before the Children of Moses.
So… what happened to the need for considered, quiet concentration? Where in the midst of all this confusion, do these ideas come from?
Now cometh the dilemma: what am I going to do about all these wonderful ideas and character insights while zooming down the highway?
I can’t pull over… the fellow drivers who make up my morning commute would give Danica Patrick a run for her money at Indy! Nope, dare not bail out of the mad rush for even a few minutes or else they’ll never give way and allow me back into the flow of traffic. We commuters are a desperate, territorial bunch: no one stops us and no one gets our space on the road.
I’m stuck. Imprisoned in a moving battlefield of steel and ethanol. What’s a girl to do?
I desperately begin trying to memorize the path to unraveling my plot problems; I utilize mnemonics in an attempt to remember the new (and brilliant) storyline; I keep listening and praying that the small voice of my ‘special’ character won’t fade into the dingy mist of diesel fuel.
I think about trying to drive with one hand and with the other jot down a few rough memory joggers on the pad laying in the well of my car’s center console. Prizing life, I quickly discard that idea as suicidal.
Then another brainy idea occurs to me… might I somehow record my thoughts on my iPhone? That’s the ticket! A memo to myself! Surreptitiously, my free hand begins to snake its way inside my purse, feeling about the items inside like a blind man making his way about an unfamiliar room – all the while keeping my eyes fixed firmly on the road in front of me. ‘Got it… almost… almost got it,’ I think, congratulating myself on my dexterity and cunning.
Like a grizzled old prospector fishing gold from a cool stream, my hand suddenly grasps the prized item! I’m pulling it out… almost have it… almost… almost… and
A monster SUV races from behind and pulls out in front of my dazzled eyes, causing me to hit the brakes… and, as a consequence, drop the iPhone back into the nether regions of my purse.
Now the heart is racing – not because I’ve almost crashed into the back of the monster SUV. Nah, it’s turning flip-flops because I can see my idea starting to float away from me, perhaps never to be seen again. I swear I can hear my character saying, ‘Sayonara, baby.’
Slowly, so slowly, I settle myself back down, repeating a familiar and soothing mantra: the ideas will still be there when I finally arrive at the office, yes, the ideas will still be there, oh please, still be there!
Finally, I arrive at my destination, sloppily park my car (who parks inside those funny lines between parking spaces anyway?), and make a mad dash for the computer. Rushing past startled co-workers with nary a good morning on my lips, I sit my butt in front of the computer and begin to type, praying the ideas are still intact.
And they usually are.
But I have to wonder: with 24 hours in each and every day, why does inspiration always strike when I’m least able to address it?
Times like these, I long for sci-fi technology. I’d love to atomize my molecules or whatchamacallits and such, and transport myself from car to computer instantly.