While taking a writing class a few months ago the subject of the writing habit came up. In particular, the instructor asked the class, When are we most creative? I had to think about it for a while. I am most productive at work during the early morning hours before the rest of the office comes in. These days I do most of my writing on my lunch hour. However, my best ideas come to me when I’m on a long drive, preferably late at night.
For example: It was the summer of 1997 and I was driving from Illinois to Iowa, about five and a half hours. I left my twenty year high school reunion at about midnight and headed up into Wisconsin following a route I had taken to get to college. It took me through the country for a while and then pick-ed up the interstate to Madison. Once I bypassed Madison it was a winding two-lane from there to the Iowa border. I knew the drive quite well.
There is something about travelling a road you are familiar with in the dark of night with little traffic that allowed my mind to drift. The previous week, I had written a character background that included a strange elf named, Hare. Yes. that is where the name of this blog comes from. Anyway, I started to noodle on why Hare had befriended the character in question. This lead me to work through Hare’s personality and motives. In turn, Hare’s family and background started to come together. Finally, his profession as a border scout was decided upon, “Wow,” I told myself. “This is a cool character.” I settled back and let my mind wander.
In the darkness, I could see trees flashing by. One minute I was Dennis, driving along Highway 18 at 65 miles and hour. The next I was an elf running through the trees desperately trying to escape a band of mercenaries. They were attacking my village and killing everyone. Wounded and scared, I ran as fast as I could but stumbled into one of my own traps. The mercenaries were looking for someone in particular because, when the leader saw me, he told his men that I was not the one and they should kill me.
My eyes came back to the road and I realized my heart was pounding. Now before you panic and scramble to get off the road when I’m driving, let me explain that the whole time the scene was playing in my head, I was fully awake and cognizant of the road and my surroundings.
The rest of the drive flew by as I began working on the details of the scene. The material that came from this strange episode became a dream sequence in a novel project that I’m working on. The problem with getting ideas while driving is it’s hard to write and drive at the same time. Good thing I have a good memory.