Last weekend I drove to Oklahoma City to cheer my son’s crew team. I went alone. What this really means is: I left my personal fraternity house (on Pizza Friday) for the absolute solitude of a remote hotel room. Husband felt sorry to cancel on me, but I pulled out of the driveway before he or anyone could reshuffle their schedules and get in my car. For three hours I drove, imagining a block of time in a silent hotel room to work on my novel. No dog jumping on the bed, no boys arguing over TV controllers, no husband expecting ducks in a row. I was so excited I nearly missed my exit.
Alone in my room, I experienced the joy of thinking in a straight line. I read without losing my place, revised without stopping and starting, generated ideas without interruptions. I glided effortlessly through a fertile field of inspiration, stunned by new perspective. I bloated my notebook with ideas, dispatched research materials that had idled since June, and noticed how quickly the friction-free time was passing. Too fast. I hadn’t figured out how all this stuff I’d gathered, informed my subject. If only I were smarter, had greater capacity, I could close the gap as I went. By the time I packed my car and headed to the regatta, I felt cerebrally hung over and lacking in accomplishment.
Physically present at the river, but mentally stuck in my head, I actually wished someone would ask me to feed them or find their socks or something, just to help me transition back to reality. I sat alone by the river and watched boats proceed to their starting line. While synchronized oars dipped in and out of the water, churning tight puddles in their wake, I stopped thinking entirely, and focused on water dripping from blades. My ideas drifted away and I let them go. But instead of dissipating, they found each other and gathered, creating their own wake, returning to me in a current of meaning. Suddenly, I could see how the new perspective fit perfectly into my back story, illuminated my front story, and allowed me to understand my own novel.
Driving back to Dallas I refereed an argument via cell phone, remotely directed the pick up of one Boy Scout, and recalled the serene hum of the refrigerator in my hotel room.