As a matter of fact, while I was driving home from school the other day, I realized driving is kind of like writing. You have to take many of the same things into account when you’re behind the wheel and behind the computer screen. Check it out:
It Takes PracticeI’ve heard it takes about three years to become an average driver. Though you can learn the rules of the road and operate a car, a good portion of learning to drive is actually driving, and that takes time. Heck, I’m not even there yet.
Writing takes practice, too. Grains of genius will appear in your writing from the beginning, but plenty of practice hours of editing, and replenished perspectives will all play into your developing skills.
You’re the BossThe driver is the master of the car. I make sure that seat belts are buckled, devices are off, the street is clear before I proceed through the stop light, and much more. I am the boss, and that means it’s all on me.
When you’re writing, it’s all on you, too. Novels don’t just fall together. It’s your job to fill the plot holes, characterize your protagonists, visualize the setting, and improve the story. You’re the boss of your words.
You Go PlacesYou get in the car to go somewhere: the store, school, the library, away. Cars transport us, and even if you don’t reach your planned destination you will certainly get somewhere you weren’t before.
Writing also helps you get somewhere, even if you don’t know where that is just yet. Maybe you plot out your goals point by point, or maybe you pants and only seek to accomplish a word count by the end of each day. Either way, writing has a destination, too.
You’re Not AloneWe share the road, because other people need to get places, too. I not only need to be mindful of how I’m responding to the cars around me, but how they are responding to me—they might not be paying attention, and I need to be extra attentive!
Likewise, we often write in community. We share our words all the time, and not only do you need to be mindful of what other people say to you, but also what you say to others, and how your words will affect them. A little kindness from a CP can go a long way.
There Are ConsequencesHere is a short list of things you should not do while driving: text, drink, smoke, eat, screw around, do make up, etcetera. You should maintain your car, stay focused, plan for bad weather. If you ignore such things you relinquish control of your driving abilities, putting yourself and others in danger. Driving is serious!
We don’t think about books with the same destructive magnitude as cars, but your words are powerful. If you treat important social issues flippantly, send a corrosive message, attack people, or even leave details out, you can do harm. You may not mean to, but you can. Pay attention to what you say and what you don’t, because we as writers can have a huge impact on people, sometimes permanently.
Patience is the VirtueWhen driving, you gotta wait for other people and stop lights and buses and the radio and so many things. You have to learn to be patient in a situation—sometimes if you try to take things into your own hands it’s dangerous!
You gotta wait as a writer, too. For fresh editing eyes, feedback from CPs and betas, from agents, from publishing people, from everybody. You must wait for ALL THE THINGS, and sometimes that is all you can do about it.
It’s So Fun!My favorite part of my drive home is gravity. One moment it takes the gas pedal to move, but if you go to the top of the hill you glide all the way down and up again! I mean, you can’t do it during rush hour, but there are times. There are immensely enjoyable parts of driving.
Writing is also fun. You create worlds and characters and situations that are absurd and crazy and profound. You get to inflict pain and suffering, joy and laughter, all these great things! It’s a lot of work, but ultimately, we enjoy it because it’s worth it.
It’s Just How We Roll
Go! Write! Drive! But not at the same time, people. These are some mutually exclusive events that should be going on, here.