Waking the Writer’s Imagination

My Lovely iPad2

A while back my husband and I enjoyed a holiday in Hilton Head with friends.  We rode in the back seat of their car for two days down and two days back, a situation which was fine, except that we had to entertain ourselves.  Usually when we go on this trek, we switch drivers every couple of hours.  Not so this time.  I was fortunate to have my iPad charged up and ready to help keep me engaged.  Here is what I wrote at one point:

An iPad in the backseat for a long trip can make the miles fly by.  It’s like slipping on that eagle’s wings and letting go of the road’s tedium.  I lose myself as I catch the updraft of imagination, floating over the miles in fresh air, free-falling.  My breath held, I urge my words to surge from my fingertips onto the page before the batteries die.  Mine and my iPad’s.

Well, it’s not Pulitzer stuff but you can see my thoughts became fanciful and I enjoyed just mucking about with words and sounds.  Surely this is one of the best things about writing.  Not to mention how losing myself in the words can fill hours and hours of time in complete delight.  I forgot about my right butt muscle that I’d pulled in a freak accident the day we left for home.  I moved into my head and let the words captivate my thoughts, edging out the drone of the tires on the road, the horns of the passing semis, and the sheer boredom of sixteen hours sitting in one spot in a car.

Whether this bit of prose is anything that will go anywhere is doubtful, but I did take my right brain out for a ride and loved it.  I also wrote three lists: one of things to do, another of things I didn’t want to do but must, and a third of dreams worthy of a bucket list.  And a couple of blog posts, and emails, and plans for our next vacation.  I’m still referencing those lists and pulling things from them to shape into writing.  Amazing.

What do you do when stuck in a similar situation?  Do you take out your smartphone and play games?  Or do you jot down character traits as you observe the people around you?  (That’s a favorite one of mine.)  Consider leaving a comment with your solitary writing-oriented secrets.


22 thoughts on “Waking the Writer’s Imagination

  1. Hi Elaine ~ You are so lucky. The second I look at the printed word in a car, motion sickness sets it. I usually rely on books on CD or my I-Pod to keep me entertained while on long car rides. The books on CD can work well with other people too. Stop the CD player every now and then to talk about what’s going on – like a mobile book club.
    By the way, I love Hilton Head. Peggy


    • Hi Peggy! I used to be like that, too, but now that I’m older, it’s not such an issue. Who knows why? Books on Cd are a great way to go when you’re driving or riding. Of course, they’ll probably outlaw them soon as a distraction for the driver. Love your idea about the mobile book club!


  2. Haven’t graduated to an I-pod but do own an Alpha-smart that runs on batteries and allows me to upload to computer later. I always have have a book on writing tucked nearby to snatch those minutes while my husband runs errands to read a couple pages.


  3. I do much the same as you, Elaine. Road trips are all about reading and writing. When I have a long drive, my first stop is to the library for books on CD’s. I love listening to a story on a long road trip.

    I’m happy to say I introduced Sherry Isaac to the road trip audio book when we drove to South Carolina last year. Yep, 16 hours for us too. We managed a couple books.

    Hope your sit muscles are back to normal!


  4. Hi Sharon! I am ashamed to admit, I haven’t done that often. Used to have tapes of stories we played in the car on trips but never graduated to CD’s. Next time, for sure, especially if it’s just the two of us traveling!


  5. And to think, Elaine, that on our little ole road trip you spent the whole time entertaining me with talk!

    When I am driving alone, I like to turn off the radio and enjoy the silence–or as much of it as there is when the engine is running and other cars are passing or being passed. There is always so much competition for attention, so much background noise, that to leave the radio off is heaven.

    On a road trip to South Carolina with Sharon Clare, we did a lot of talking and plotting and catching up, but we also listened to audio books–Sharon’s plan. I’d never thought to take audio books out of the library. It was great.

    When my husband is driving, I take the opportunity to read, but I think I will pull out the iPad and write a few blog posts – that’s a fantastic idea.


  6. Elaine, I like to read when I am on a road trip. If motion sickness sets in then I settle back and let my mind wander. In no time I am reaching for my notebook and pen. My thoughts soon stray to a story I am writing and the words, dialogue, and situations flow like crystal clear waters. Amazing what happens when I de-clutter my mind and stop multi-tasking. It makes me think I am due for another road trip!


    • Oh, I love that, Phyllis! And I’m glad to hear what you think about multi-tasking as I agree wholeheartedly. BTW I have friends who had a cottage at Camlachie for a number of years and I always heard how nice it was there. Good for you!


  7. I have never been able to read while in motion – in a car or on a bus. I can manage it on a plane, but you don’t really feel the forward motion – just the up and down when it gets turbulent. So writing, or typing (or whatever you do on an iPad, an animal that I have never yet seen) would not work for me either. Like Sherry, when I’m driving alone, I love the quiet. To have a radio or CD playing distracts me. I enjoy silence anywhere. And I love to take the back roads. When riding with someone else, I simply enjoy the scenery, and conversation. I did that even as a child. When I was in Grade 10, my parents gave me a beginner’s oil painting set. When that ‘bug’ got hold of me, I would look at the scenery with a totally different eye. I would figure which greens I needed to mix together to paint a tree, which blues the sky, etc. So in a way, even though I can’t write while on the move, I am taking in something that I might just be able to use in describing scenery in my next book.


    • Hi Diane! Thank you for your comments above. I am ever amazed at the similarities I find between myself and those folks who read my posts. Motion sickness in a car is one that has always got me. When I drive my husband reads. When he drives I chat with him as I can’t read. I’m not sure how I was able to work on my iPad, in the back seat no less, but I was. So some things do change as you get older. And I also did a stint at painting, although with acrylics. I’d love to try water colours some time, too, but time is short. This being retired is hard work, what with writing, walking, swimming, holidaying, writing, writing and more writing.


      • Elaine, I have never suffered from motion sickness, just can’t focus on the page while the car is moving.

        After a few years of oil painting and becoming nauseated with the smell of the paint and solvents especially in the hot weather, I tried acrylics and eventually got to really like them. I have also done some water colour. I have a series of 4 posts on my blog with photos of some of my paintings and other crafts if you have time to check them out. http://diane-stephenson.com under miscellaneous category.


  8. Aren’t road trips great! I’ve always loved travelling. Driving to a destination. Thing is I love the actual driving part. My I-Pad is the passing scenery. In it I see old houses and create stories about its past occupants. I see a cut of rock and see the history of the land flow around it.
    Driving, to me, is what quite often releases my muse. My hands, and the part of my brain required for driving, are occupied leaving my creative juices room to roam.


    • Such a creative use of your driving time, Dale. Awesome. You must be a writer. Ha Ha! Ron and I love to take road trips, too. We talk and talk, stop and walk, drive some more, do Trivial Pursuit questions, and listen to CD’s. Our favorite is Abba singing all the songs from days gone by. Ron downloaded all the lyrics so if you pass us on the highway you’ll see we’re singing our hearts out as we crank the tunes.


  9. I’m a big people watcher so if I’m stuck somewhere that I can do that I’m good (though I rarely remember to write the more interesting things I see down!) In a car I often get lost in the scenery and certain vignettes that go by often show up in my writing as settings.


  10. I will use my smart phone and the Tablet I have. The Tablet gets used for notes and characters and thoughts on my WIP or future plotting. It also has tons of game apps, so I stay busy. I hate being stuck in the back of the car. Normally hubby and I make up stories about the passing scenery or who lives in the towns we pass through. Somehow, there is always a story …


    • You are right. Being in the back seat is the pits, especially for short people. Who designed those head rest things, anyhow? Ha Ha. What a great idea to make up stories about the scenery. My husband and I go through the alphabet thinking of song titles, or we guess the ratio of cars vs. trucks in the approaching traffic, or we think up new business ideas, or we talk about things we want to do or places we still want to see. We love a car trip. Thanks for commenting!


  11. Thanks Elaine. But now that I write, I don’t do any of those things any more. I wish I had time to paint again, but I don’t know if that will ever happen again. I can’t seem to manage splitting my creative energies now. Is is something to do with age?


  12. I can read in the car, so that’s what I do. But since I’m a big talker I hope to have a similarly interested buddy in the back seat to chat the miles away. I do bring a notebook and pen wherever I go for those wait times. Sounds like you put the time to good use!


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