I’m not really a bus driver; I just play one on TV. Sadly, I don’t have a fancy commercial driver’s license or air brakes that make a satisfying hiss, but I did have the opportunity to fake it earlier this week. The reasons why I was driving a small bus this week aren’t important. What is important is the way my mind solves problems — and how more than 500 miles behind the wheel helps me work things out.
Since before finals began, I’ve been working on several short stories. I tend to work like this, starting multiple projects and picking away at each one in turn until I either finish them or lose interest. But there comes a time, inevitably, when I run into a roadblock. The story grinds to a halt and refuses to move forward. Maybe a character’s motivations change or a plot derails and I get stuck. Sunday afternoon, all the stories I was constructing hit that wall.
Lucky for me, I had a long time to think about it. There is something about the continuous roar of the engine and the long, straight stretches of desert highway that frees the mind. The driver is isolated. You’re too far from the passengers to hear or be heard in conversation and you’re too absorbed in the operations of your underpowered vehicle (without cruise control, I might add) to interact with anyone. It’s as close to pure solitude as you can get in today’s highly-connected world.
As the miles rolled away behind me, I let my troubled brain wander were it pleased. It wasn’t long before it hit upon the issues in my stories. During the unbroken time I had at my disposal, my mind managed to solve a few of the problems that were bogging down the progress of my fiction. It was a beautiful thing. The obstacles that seemed impossible to conquer fell away like the mileposts on the shoulder of the I-10 East. One after another.
I don’t know why driving has this effect on the creative centers of the brain. Maybe it has something to do with the thrum of tires on pavement or the vibration of the torque in the gas pedal. All I know is, thanks to a long, exhausting drive, I can now move forward.
— 30 —
Are you the kind of person who likes to read the kinds of things that I write? If so, I write daily on Twitter. Check out the endless flow of words at @jonnyeberle.