Driving the Process

I write my stories on the road. Sometimes literally.

It goes like this:

I write something down beforehand–usually it’s only about 500 words. I print it out. I read it over and over again and then I stick it in the car with a yellow legal pad and a blue ink pen.

And then I take a long drive.

It’s not too hard for me to do that drive. I live in a rural northeastern California county where there’s only two stoplights in the entire county. I have to balance out looking for deer with looking for what should come next in the story. I have my best dialogue written by the time I arrive at my destination.

This method works well for me. My passenger seat has paper and a pen. I don’t have to look at the words as I’m writing. I write it down in huge messy letters but I get it all there. If I have such an outbreak of creativity that it goes beyond a line or two , I pull over to the next turn out and get off the road and write in all seriousness.

I’ve tried to record on my phone as I drive but that doesn’t always work as by the time I turn on the phone it’s no better than texting and I feel like I’ll drive off the canyon and end up in the river. But writing something down on bright yellow paper? I dont need to see what I’m writing to do that.

I don’t know why it works but it does. Maybe it’s the scenery and the open road. Maybe it’s because the radio reception is so bad in the mountains I don’t bother listening to anything but my inner voices and characters.

Recently I made the 10 hour drive to Los Angeles County down the 5. I’d written this sociopath of a character. A big ladie’s man. I needed him to have a great parting shot so that no woman would ever want him again. I drove passed Harris Ranch and the cows to the slaughter yard near by. My nose scrunched up from the stench and I once again vowed vegetarianism. It made me think of blood. Which made me think of the heart. My character slaughters women’s hearts. Heart-slaughterer.

I grabbed the open pen and pad and wrote “And look at you baby—all heart-slaughtered there on the black and white floor.”

My office is a wonderful place to write and think and read but nothing quite compares to the road trip and drive writing. We drive through scene after scene of sameness and difference. Somewhere in that landscape are our words.

About Margaret Elysia Garcia

Margaret Elysia Garcia is the author of short story ebook collection Sad Girls and Other Stories, and the audiobook Mary of the Chance Encounters, and the co-founder and lead playwright of Las Pachucas, theatrical troupe. She teaches creative writing and theatre in a California state prison.
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3 Responses to Driving the Process

  1. I LOVE this! My best ideas always come in the car too, and typically just have my phone nearby to grab and Siri’s audio feature NEVER gets it right!

    I’m going to give myself permission to drive just for the literary value from now on : )

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