My muse must be a stock car driver on her days off. Flashes of brilliant ideas come to me while I am driving on the freeway, changing lanes and radio stations, telling the kids to stop throwing things, and groping for the pen and notepaper I keep for when the sparks of creativity find me. My most creative writing is dangerous and illegible writing, words and phrases written at 70 mph, jotted down quickly on sticky yellow squares of paper, the pad balanced on the dashboard, coffee cup lid, or my right knee. I need to write immediately when the inspiration hits, or it will be forgotten forever, but in the fervor of the moment I usually neglect to write neatly or to bother with spelling. Many a brilliant idea, the novel to rival Hemmingway or the analytical thesis worthy of a doctorate, is beyond comprehension when I return safely home, sit down at my desk, and attempt to read the scribbled words.
This is where the outlines and rough drafts have their start, the words and phrases written on grocery lists, envelopes, and PTA bulletins. When an idea comes to me, I do not want it to escape into the clutter and chaos that abounds in a life with three boys, I need to try to capture it, hold it until I can get home and unwrap it in the quiet of the house after bedtime. Only then can I empty my pockets and re-read the frantic penmanship and attempt to decipher the fragmented clues I have left myself. Tossed like a salad of post-it® notes, receipts and scrap papers, some of my notes make no sense at all, but other times I find the phrase I need to start a new paper or to summarize an assignment. In constantly channeling these ideas from my mind to the paper the writing process is kept fresh and immediate, so the writings I am working on are not allowed to lie stagnant in the back of my mind, waiting for a calm moment when I can sit at the desk and begin an outline.
I enjoy writing. I enjoy writing fiction, love letters, e-mails to friends, journals, comments and critiques no one asked for on their blog, and I even enjoy writing reports and essays for school. I most often write when the house is quiet, while everyone is away at school or work, or I write at night, after the boys are snoring and the wife is comfortable on the couch. Sometimes there is music playing, but only as a spark for creative writing, to set or jump-start a mood. Marvin Gaye, Barry White, the sultry Alicia Keys not only work when trying to set the move and get the groove, but also help the ink flow smooth when writing a note for her pillow. Goofing around in the blogosphere? Mash some Van Morrison, Dylan, Frank Black, Beck, James McMurtry, the inspiration of a genius lyric to spark the creativity. For NaNoWriMo it had to be RHC Peppers and Foo Fighters, quick and thumping, driving out as many words as possible, even if they didn't always make sense
For academic writing I need total silence to facilitate focus. I am easily distracted, and for all the benefits of Microsoft Word there are the temptations of too many buttons available on the computer. I will look for any excuse to go on the web and look something up, justifying my site surfing as research for the essay, when in reality it may take hours before I steer myself away from that damn "Next Blog" button and back to the assignment. I am also distracted and diverted from completing my writing assignments by my inability to end a sentence, either by refusing to use a punctuation mark other than a comma, or by revising and reworking, then rereading and rewriting again, each sentence. People have told me I can write well, and for the most part I enjoy what I have written, but there is always a nagging sense of inadequacy, a suspicion of whether I have put forth my best effort. Often my writing is too spontaneous, and while I can go back and read a finished assignment or an effort of creative writing and appreciate some sentences or phrases that began as brainstorming on the road to pick up the kids and have been developed into good solid examples of my writing ability, I can also see the lines or paragraphs where I did not pay much attention and towards the end simply lost interest, leading to poor abrupt en