Of driving and rain

Last week was one helluva week in the states. The Onion expressed my thoughts very well.  Be advised there is strong language in that piece.

My lady and I drove to the folks Friday night. She’s folding the thousand paper cranes, or senbazuru, for the wedding, and I’m making a box to house them in.  My dad has the tools I need to prepare the pieces for the box, and although I had a good plan in my head for the project, there were many things I was unaware of when it comes to using a table-mounted circular saw to trim wood to 0.75 inches by 0.75 inches by 24 inches long.  But we live and learn, and the pieces are cut, so the box can be made, and the cranes displayed.

Our little, personal hell last week was the drive to the folks.  Rumors had filled the air like pollen of a dire thunderstorm all day on Friday, and, indeed, upon leaving work just after 5 p.m., the sky was dark and the rain threatening. Visibility was still good, the car was gassed, and we were ready — so we went.

Not 20 minutes later, visibility was zero, the pollen was gone from the car, and a tree blocked half the road. No one was injured. Fair enough. We kept going.

It was around this time that I remembered that I had not written my blog for the week, for which you, the reader, receive a late apology. It was easy enough to see what I would be writing about, although there was some philosophical discussion about the value of what that would be. Personally, I think my contributions to the blog do not lower the general IQ of the Internet one bit, nor remotely affect the aggregate value of the content of the web, but perhaps I should be trying to help bring more smarts to the digital realm. Or being more realistic, and trying to improve on the content of the website, instead of the entire Internet.

Not today.

Today, I will tell you how writing is like driving on a U.S. interstate at 40 miles below the speed limit during a powerful thunderstorm drenching central Virginia with approximately 1.5 inches of rain per hour.*

* I don’t know what the measured rainfall was; I’m making this up. For the record, there have been far more powerful rainstorms.

What’s particularly interesting about this simile is the general fact that roads go in lines for a while before there’s another intersection, and Interstates in particular have fewer intersections.  When writing, it’s rarely a straight line.  Even if you’re not adding in flashbacks and foreshadows, even if you’re writing from the perspective on one character, the route from opening scene to “The End” is circuitous — that makes for better writing. Take the game “Myst,” which can be solved in less than five minutes if you know how, but is thousands of times more frustratingly fun if you don’t (or can’t recall).  Distractions and deviations flesh out the world and develop the character.

And yet. Suppose the road is the outline, which one wants to follow as best as possible along its path.  Suppose the visibility problems are sections of argument or battle where the details were vague in the outline but must be written; suppose the tree in the road is the unexpected realization that a character’s best choice right now is something completely different than desired (of course, then you’re off the outline and halfway to Farmville).

The great thunderstorm around you while you drive assails all your senses — the tinny taste to the electrified air, the sweaty palms that grip the wheel, the intent stare on the rear lights of the creeping car in front of you, the shh-shh-shh-scree of the windshield wipers, the wet, humid smell of, well, of water.  Even that sixth sense of dread or foreboding is tensed, waiting for the next tree to fall (there were two on our trip, both down before we reached them), waiting for that semi attempting to pass you to swerve.

Like a good book, the storm coupled with the drive, from page one, is a thrill, albeit one I never hope to go through again.

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