Sunday, February 10, 2008

On the Road Again

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"On the road again, I can't wait to get on the road again..." Willie Nelson

ROBERTA: This seems to be the only blog topic I can come up with because I've been away from home since December 27! I had a million good intentions of developing the idea for my next book, and a million reasons why that didn't happen. The computer crash--anyone would be set back by that one, right? And the time spent visiting relatives on the way south and then on the way back, no reasonable human being can work under those conditions. But what about all the time in between? And come to think of it, the times I've been on other trips, I'm uniformly unproductive. I'm wondering then if it's reasonable to expect to be able to write outside my office. Maybe traveling is disruptive enough that I should simply mark those days off on my calendar. NWT: no words today. Or maybe my brain is saying "I'm tired" after eight books in seven years. I'm secretly hoping it's been working away behind the scenes so when I do finally get home, a story will start to pour out!

JAN: I'm all for giving yourself a break! I think the brain needs rest times, and I also think that travel is disruptive -- pleasantly so. In fact, that probably accounts for its popularity!

I am taking two weeks off before starting my next project, and I'm not going anywhere-- physically at least. I'm just mentally "on the road," and so far, it's a very nice trip.

HALLIE: EIGHT BOOKS! That's impressive, Roberta. Maybe you just needed a break. And besides, what did you expect, vacationing in Florida? Not exactly conducive to sweat and toil. I was there for three mojito-soaked days at conference last week and I came away with nothing to show for all that heavy lifting but a pink plastic flamingo.

Seriously, I can NOT write away from home. And I've become paranoid about my computer--last time I took it on a plane, the hard drive crashed a day later. (Same thing happened to my husband's laptop when he took a trip.) Even though I had everything backed up, it was weeks before I was out of Dell Hell and back in business. And without my computer, working isn't unlikely, it's iimpossibe.

What we all need for traveling/writing is a small, super rugged, laptop that does nothing but word process and email.

RO: I'm in awe of the eight books..
I can rewrite on the road..I quite enjoy that, but can't seem to generate new pages. But that doesn't stop me from schlepping all of my notes and folders with me, as if this time will be different..

HANK: One of the moments when I actually felt like a writer was two summers ago, in a B and B called The Rookwood Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts. My husband and I, along with another couple, were spending a few days there, going to Tanglewood and plays and museums and all the wonderful things around there. But my first book was due in two weeks. And I had to work.

So every morning, I took my laptop into the living room of the Inn, sat on a velvet couch, and laptop on lap, a put my feet (yes) on the coffee table . I had to finish the first big redraft of Prime Time. I missed out on a museum and a lunch at a great place. The next day, everyone but me went somewhere else fun. I kept working.

Secretly? I was thrilled. I felt tough and powerful and devoted. And I did finish. Away from my own dear desk. I had to. But wow, I'd certainly rather be right here, surrounded by my stuff.

And Roberta, I think though, there is something to be said for resting your tired brain. When your story's percolated inside your brain and ready, I bet you won't be able to keep away from a computer or pad of paper, no matter where you are. I have notes on symphony programs, napkins, my little red notebook, backs of envelopes, and yes, my reporter's notepad. When it's time, your story won't let you stand in the way.


  1. Eight books in seven years?

    Yowza. Yeah. I'd say you're due for a little "green" time and untrodden paths.

    Oddly enough, I write better on the road than at home. If I really need to get something delivered, I spend a couple of days in a B&B somewhere remote -- with not too many attractions like antique stores and main street movie theatres ca. 1920. (If there are "nostalgic" attractions, I'm toast.)

    I do my best writing on airplanes. iPod, cup of coffee with Bailey's or cup of hot cocoa with a shot of Malibu coconut rum, laptop and ... zippity-do-dah. Right now my personal best is 2217 words between DFW and Minneapolis-St.Paul, a 2-hr flight, two weeks ago. Woot! to small spaces, cabins pressurized to 9,000 and the comfort cup of something hot with a hair of the dog -- amazing what the brain will do on a jigger of rum and a touch of hypoxia.

    Writing at home is so much tougher. Especially now, with Texas spring on the trailing edge of every breeze. The Carolina jessamin on our fence is about to break loose and flower (a riot of yellow blooms), and I just planted my first rose bush of the year, which is already in bud. So ... with the garden calling and way too much housework shrieking Dust Me! most times, it's better -- far better -- if I write somewhere else.

    Hank -- I like that 'tough, powerful, and devoted.' Now there's a mantra worth its weight in Ohm.

  2. Susannah--where you are is--sunny? It's difficult to remember nice and comforting weather. Aren't you coming to Boston soon? Bring a coat.

    Today we had snow squalls,whe weirdest weather I can remember.

    It was blue skies and puffy white clouds--and then in a matter of seconds, I'm not exaggerating--it was snowing harder than you can imagine. Total white out. Wind howling. Lightning. Thunder. And pouring down snow.

    And then--in maybe ten minutes, all sun again.

    Weird weird weird. And then, to make it even weirder, today I sat in a chair in the sun room and read Duma Key ALL DAY. I did not get up for five hours.

    Stephen King is an amazing writer. Say what you will. Duma Key is good good good. I don't want to say anything in case you haven't read it yet. It has one problem, but hey. Who am I to criticize. I could not move from my chair. What author wouldn't want that? And okay, if you think I'm, what's the word, mainstream. Fine.

    I got up once to get a diet coke and realized there was music in my head. And it was Bolero. And I thought--Bolero? Why is Bolero playing in my brain?

    Then I realized. Is there a piece of popular-ish music that builds more to a crescendo than Bolero?
    The book created the music for me.


  3. Even if you don't manage to get words on paper (or pixels), your writer brain is working. I've found you have to learn to trust your subconscious to keep going, even while you're on the beach with a margarita in your hand. Recharge those mental batteries!


  4. Yes -- we've had some unreasonably beautiful days for the past week. Green grass in the backyard (dogs love that), the bulb garden in full voice (I love that), and all the passiflora are throwing out new leaves, shaped like those Flower Power icons of the 60s.

    Other things are stirring, as well. Saturday, while hiding in the debris pile for new search puppies (guess what I was reading, Hank), a juvenile copperhead slid right over my foot. Very slow, very sleepy, on his way to somewhere else -- but didn't he move with particular grace, and didn't I think Alrighty Then and hold my breath until he was well west. Copperheads give one the ability to be still and think deeply.

    With apologies to Percy Shelley: If spring comes, can snakes be far behind?

    A snow squall. Man, I would have loved to have seen that. I wonder if anyone captured it and got it on YouTube?

    Boston in 3 1/2 weeks! YES,YES,YES! Must Pack Coat, check. With any luck, if we have to hold prior to arrival at Logan,I might get a chapter written! }:>

    Heading somewhere far from the garden to write today,


  5. Susannah:

    Your post stopped me in my tracks:

    "while hiding in the debris pile for new search puppies"

    You mean: you were hiding in a pile of debris to see if puppies could find you?

    And by: (guess what I was reading, Hank)

    You mean you were in the pile reading?

    And I can't guess...unless it's Duma Key which also has snakes.

    And Sheila, I do agree. It's so amazing how the brain keeps churning along, and little do we know what's in there. What your book timing, anyway? Soon, right?

  6. Yep, Hank -- there are training days where I put up my grown search dog and hide, as victim, in DFD's 'debris pile' (structural collapse area made up mostly of cement and metal) for new search-puppies-in-training.

    And I take a book with me because sometimes it takes the young pups awhile to catch on what they're supposed to do when air currents and scent are going every which way, as they do across uneven debris. So I wedge myself underneath something uncomfortable with a book and a flashlight and wait to be found.

    A month ago I was reading Preaching to the Corpse while hiding for the puppies, but Saturday it was Prime Time that I was reading there in the debris pile when the copperhead slid over my foot and beyond.

    I'm making good on my New Year's resolution to read something by every one of the JR writers (and respondents) in 2008. You were up next!

    This is the second or third time a snake's gotten friendly when I was hiding, but I've never been bitten.
    And I've always been found. :-)

  7. I have had a Mac for a few months now, and have to admit that it has been a smooth, hassle-free experience! No crashes, no annoying viruses or spyware, just fast, clean work time!

    I do feel all writers should be working on Macs:)