To drive a standard is to be in tune with one’s automobile. It’s to recognize when it’s time to shift, up or down. It’s to know when to put the vehicle in neutral or when to stay in motion, fluctuating between the brake and gas pedals.
The writing life is similar. It is not an automatic or an automated thing. It has its rhythms, which become familiar to the writer. The writer tunes into those rhythms. She follows their ebb and flow. She learns their give and take. She learns, as it were, to shift gears.
It isn’t easy; the gears sometimes stick. Sometimes, the writer approaches a hill and finds herself rolling backward or losing power. Emergency brake. Sometimes, that rolling backward inflicts damage on the vehicles surrounding her. Sometimes, all she can do is yell “Writer at work!” and hope that people will scramble out of harm’s way.
Other days, she forgets to shift down from a higher gear before moving again. She may get her vehicle to move but, oh, how it complains. She feels a sense of satisfaction in being able to move, even if in the wrong gear. She then apologizes to her automobile and promises to do better in the future. She knows the lurching and sputtering to life isn’t healthy for her vehicle or her. She isn’t alone on this road. A slight delay could result in a ten-car pile-up. She has a responsibility to care for her vehicle as best she can.
Some days, though? Some days are special. She finds herself on an interstate with little traffic. She puts her vehicle in its highest gear, and it hums. She can see for miles on this road. She gives her automobile a loving pat, then begins to take notice of the things she couldn’t when she was fighting to get into gear: the sun piercing the clouds; the bull chewing on some hay; the trees crowding close together. She smiles and keeps on driving, her hand resting on the gearshift.
Photo: ND Strupler (CC BY 2.0)