Saturday, December 1, 2012

On Writing and the Road

 The other day I was having coffee with some of my cousins from out of town.  And my cousin Jim asked me what my days were like.  He's a cardiologist so I'm assuming our days are quite different.  He's doing his rounds, saving people's lives.  I'm dragging myself out of bed and trying to figure out what I'm going to do next.  Should I work on that pesky novel that's been giving me trouble or pull out a short story I never quite finished.  Is there something in the drawer that is just burning to be done? 

The best days are the ones when I get out of bed and say to myself - I know what scene I want to work on.  I know where I want this piece to go.  I must admit those days don't happen often enough for me.  But it's great when they do. 

However the equation completely changes when I'm on the road.  For me being on the road is inextricably linked to writing.  In movement I find ideas.  At home I render them, work on them, beat them into submission.  But on a train, in a quiet house near a river, a friend's apartment she's lent us for a week in Rome, anywhere but the place where I pay my bills, that is where I'll get most of my best work done.  This is where and when the mind is perking.

I felt a little guilty about this until I read that every winter Graham Greene traveled to the isle of Capri where he spent three months just writing.  Then he went back to England, smoke cigars, lunched at his club, and typed up the work he'd done while away.  That is the key for me.  If I'm going to get good work done, it's got to be from away.

I can't explain it and I'm not even sure that I want to, but once I'm on the road my head is clear.  Depression that I struggle with lifts.  I'm good.  I am really like a child where everything is like ice cream.  I don't care if there are delays.  In fact I love delays because then I can sit on the train or in the airport and just write and read or paint and draw or think or whever I want.  On this page are some images from on the road and also some watercolors of places where I've written and drawn.

I think again of my cousin Jim.  I could tell he envied me what he believed to be my sense of freedom.  There is a little 007 in me.  I'm closer to an operative in the field than I am to a cardiologist at a heart hospital.  Though I like to believe I'm trying to save hearts to.  And minds.  But really perhaps the best we writers can hope for is to save our own and, in doing so, toss a lifeline to a few others caught in these rough seas we all journey through.

As a writer the most I can really hope for is to feel better at the end of the day than I did at the beginning.  And if I got something done, if I wrote a few lines I thought worth keep, then I'd probably make good company for my family and friends.  I'd make a nice meal, watch a show, read, and go to bed. 

This is a writer's day.  At home or on the road.  I need them both, I suppose, in the end.