What I'm Writing Now...and the Art of the Driving Daydream
I blame technology for my inability to stay focused.
That, and the story ideas that continuously pop into my head at all hours of the day. I think if I really tried, I could find a way to tell a story about pocket lint.
Once upon a time, there was this piece of lint that escaped from the pocket of some very old jeans. It travelled on the wind through a city of skyscrapers and people in a hurry…
But I digress.
What I intended to do tonight when I got home was work on the current work-in-progress, The Girl Who Didn’t Go. For those of you following along, I’m writing a story based on true events—two events actually—and weaving them into a story about a young woman dealing with survivor’s guilt and a young man feeling the weight of responsibility after losing his father. I have a good portion of it written. Even focused on editing the first act over the weekend. But now, it’s a weeknight and there‘s only so much time.
My weeknights seem fast and furious. I get home, immediately change into pajamas, write a little, make dinner, eat with the hubby, and try to get back to writing. After dinner is the hardest part, there’s the food coma in some cases, maybe a glass of wine, a one-hour show or an episode of Family Guy, and I have to get to bed before 10pm or I’m dead the next day. I’m literally giving the clock the evil eye right now because it’s 9:30pm and it’s practically mocking me.
If I’m lucky, I can get one solid hour in. I try to take it as a win.
I’ve kind of resigned myself to using the week nights to work on alternative projects. Like what you’re reading now or story ideas I’m flushing out, or even reading a book.
The last week or so, I’ve been focusing on my B-story, as we’ll call it. This weeknight alternative is in its early stages. It’s about a musician who’s gone into hiding so he can write his next album without the stress I imagine most artists feel when they try to follow up the hits. He’s crossed to the other side of the country to lay low in a small apartment over a bar. The bar owner is a young woman who’s inherited the place, but her goals are set on selling it so she can go do what she really wants—to work with dolphins.
This is so early on in the process, I can write it in short scenes, which is usually as far as I get in my driving daydreams most days.
The driving daydream is an exercise I use to pass the time on the hour drive into and from work. Most people would scoff at that kind of commute but it gets me centered on the way in, and helps motivate me on the way home.
If you drove by me on the road, you’d think I’m either a.) singing, b.) talking on the phone, or c.) talking to myself. The answer is d.) all of the above. Sometimes, if I have an epiphany, I like to use my notes app and the talk/text option because I WILL FORGET otherwise. Then when I come home, I can add the notes to my scene. I have full on character conversations and think through how they may react to the bombs I lob into their story.
So back to the inability to stay focused. I was really going to try to work on TGWDG tonight. Got a chapter edit in and then I was like nah, it’s a weeknight, go do the short thing. Then I was like oh look shiny!
Dammit write something you fool.
So here we are. At least I was being slightly creative. And just so that you feel you’re getting more out of this blog post than rants, musings and learning about daydream driving, I thought a a small tease of the weeknight work was in order. Here’s a very rough draft of the opening scene. Enjoy!
Josh Jones felt heavy.
It wasn’t that he was a large man. Outside of some well-defined limbs, he was quite thin, in fact. It wasn’t the wool overcoat he wore over his white dress shirt, or the denim in his jeans. It wasn’t even the duffle bag of clothes slung over his shoulder or the guitar case in his hand.
Every fiber in his being just felt burdensome.
His head hurt a bit, and he felt sluggish. Not sick exactly, just run down and worn out.
Ten years on the road and in the studio would do that to you.
It broke many an artist who couldn’t keep up with the rigorous and sometimes vicious circle of write, record, perform, repeat. It damn near broke him.
When he’d left the studios in Bakersfield three days ago, he’d left a note on the sound board in his uneasy scrawl.
Need to clear my head and find my voice. It may not be what you want, but it’s what I need.
Danny Quinn, his manager, probably lost his shit when he found it, but he’d berated Quinn to give him space. He couldn’t make one more album with all the pressures they put on him, not to mention the creative well had run dry.
Josh needed a reboot. And he needed a place to hide out for a while.
Twenty-five hundred miles oughta help. He’d paid cash to stay off the radar and refused to think about songwriting the entire trip. His brain needed a rest and when he was ready, he knew his muse would show itself. If it came back from wherever the hell it went.
He stood in the vestibule of the train car as it pulled into the station just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, and shifted the strap of his duffle. The sun was getting low in the sky and people whizzed by on the platform even as the train slowed.
In the pocket of his coat he had a piece of paper with the name of a bar and its owner—Hidden Agenda Tavern and Mel. His sister Sophie, the only woman on god’s green earth that he even trusted anymore, gave him the info. He told her his plan to disappear for a while and swore her to secrecy. He knew Sophie would never turn him in to Quinn. She was his tough older sister, and was resourceful when it came to finding places to spend a little down time. No one would break her. Hell, sometimes even he was afraid of her.
Josh hoped this Mel guy was cool. He realized right now he probably looked like shit—his hair was stupid long and he’d let his beard grow out in an attempt not to be recognized. He looked like a deadbeat, so he wouldn’t be surprised if Mel had his hesitations. He just needed to rent out the apartment over the bar, and he wasn’t sure for how long.
If it didn’t work out, or Mel was a dick, he’d move along. Just like always.
As the doors opened, a burst of humidity slapped him in the face and he stepped off the train. He walked over to a bench to shake off his coat and then headed toward the stations exit.
The cab driver waiting in front of the line of transportation vehicles flagged him down.
Josh laid his stuff across the back seat as he got it and gave the driver the address to the Hidden Agenda.
“Long trip, boss?” The cab driver’s middle eastern accent was as thick as his head of black hair.
“Yeah, too long.”
“Maybe you get a vacation here? Good tourist location. Race coming up.”
Josh looked out the window at the skyline. “Maybe, but I’ve got some work to do.”
“Yeah? What is it that you do?”
He glanced at the guitar case on the seat next to him then into the rearview mirror. The driver’s eyes bounced between him to the road.
“Wait, let me guess,” the driver said. “You look like you might be a preacher.”
“Close enough, my friend,” Josh laughed. “I do try to spread the good word.”
“I knew it.” The driver hit the top of the steering wheel with his hand and looked pretty pleased with himself. “So, you save a lot of souls?”
Josh chuckled and gazed out the window. “Sometimes.”
Maybe this time he’d save himself.
The cab pulled up to the front of the Hidden Agenda and Josh got out.
The two story building was nestled in between a yogurt shop and a small branch of a local bank. The windows reflected the sun blocking the view inside, so he looked up and down the block.
The neighborhood had the feel of newness to it or maybe had been through some huge renovations. Rentable scooters were parked in small groups every half block and across the street a bookstore deposited a group of young hipsters onto the sidewalk.
He hoped he wasn’t recognized—the guitar in his hand was like a flashing neon sign—but figured this was still racing country. He was pretty certain most of the city folk here didn’t listen to Indie music.
The door to the Hidden Tavern opened in front of him and two middle-aged men dressed in coveralls exited. Josh grabbed the door before it shut and walked inside.
“Night Moves” by Bob Seger played through the sound system.
The place was practically empty. A couple old men at the bar, and small group of twenty-somethings huddled in a booth in the corner.
He started to have second thoughts. Maybe he should go find some cheap motel. He had the cash. He could find a secluded place with a pool, or maybe an in-room jacuzzi. He almost turned around to leave but in the far corner of the place stood a mahogany baby grand piano on a small platform stage.
Intrigued, he walked toward it.
The wood was damn near perfect, except for a light layer of dust. Even in the dim area of the room, he could see it had been well taken care of. He set his guitar and duffle bag at the first step to the stage and admired it.
A voice from behind called out and when he turned, another curiosity drew him further in.
The young woman behind the bar was all big green eyes and short brown hair. Her hoop earrings almost touched the straps of her tank top and Josh tried desperately to keep his eyes from wandering down to her ample cleavage. He focused on her mouth instead. It was painted in a coral lipstick and one corner was turned up.
“I play,” he said and headed over to the bar.
She gave him the once over and turned to the register to deposit a twenty. “You drink?”
“Maker’s. Neat. Ok if I leave my stuff over there?”
She walked to the opposite end of the bar and he took the time to check her out. Amazing ass, athletic build, and biker boots. He really hoped she wasn’t Mel’s wife or daughter. She might be fun to play with.
No, you’re here to decompress not get into some drama you don’t need.
She returned with a rocks glass and the bottle and poured it in front of him.
“I heard Mel has a room to rent.” He placed a twenty on the bar and picked up the glass.
She set the bottle under the counter. “Are you some kind of weirdo, cuz Mel doesn’t rent out to just anyone.”
The old men at the end of the bar muffled some laughter and she shot them a look. He started to think Mel must like having her around to keep the peace, because the two men shut up right away.
“Aren’t we all a little weird, sweetness?”
She didn’t seem bothered by the nickname—hell, he didn’t even know where that came from but he imagined it suited her. She sized him up again. “You don’t seem to have a lot with you. Are you on the run or something?”
“I’m just taking a break. I need a place. I’m not sure how long, but I have the money.” He pulled out his wallet and fanned through a couple hundred bucks. “I can pull up my bank records if Mel needs me to.”
She chewed her lip before shrugging. “Hang out for a bit.”
Josh watched her walk away and sighed. He took a pull on the whiskey and got comfortable on the stool.