This last summer, I drove to Austin for a work conference. I had a choice of flying or driving and most of my colleagues chose to fly. Not me. For one thing, I did the travel math and figured that by the time I drove to the airport, parked, went through security, waited for the flight, spent 30-45 minutes in the air, landed, got an Uber, etc., I’d actually spend less time in transit if I just hopped in my car and headed out. More importantly, however, once I get out of the special hell that is Houston traffic, road trips are great for writing and boosting creative energy.
Just as with going for long walks, driving is a great way to access the unconscious. Once I escape the city and I exit onto the smaller highways, I turn up the music and my mind takes off, wandering and exploring. This is when, while one part of my mind is engaged with the physics of passing slow trucks and keeping a lookout for cops, memories I haven’t thought of in ages come flooding back. Ideas for stories, blog ideas, characters, Big Questions all come bubbling up in a way that just doesn’t happen otherwise.
When I drive, my mind is open to new experiences, to new energy. Synchronicity occurs. Once, while on a road trip to Florida, the song “Fifty Seven Channels” by Bruce Springsteen came on the radio and a few minutes later, a car passed me with the license plate “57.” I’m not making that up and I spent the next hundred miles (and beyond) pondering why. I still don’t know, but that experience gave just enough magic to bouey my creative energies for another day. Driving allowed me to pay attention to that instance of synchronicity, whereas I may have overlooked it in the every day.
So, if you get stuck creatively, you can hardly do much better than to go for a drive.
Update: “Fifty-Seven Channels (and Nothing On)” is a pretty good tune. The above instance was the first time I’d ever heard it: