Why Writing is Like Sitting in Rush-Hour Traffic Without Much To Worry About

Why Writing is Like Sitting in Rush-Hour Traffic Without Much To Worry About

Here we go, folks. I am sermonising again. Yet another occasion whereby I derive another tenuous conclusion from an extremely vague experience. Do calm down: I know how exciting this is, but it’s only Tuesday. Long time to go before the weekend yet.

That Was A Terrible Introduction Tara, It’s Time To Start The Post Properly Now Please

Anyhoo, yesterday evening I was sitting in rush hour Dublin traffic at its finest, on my way to a meeting, on my way from another meeting. Neither of these were ‘blogger’ meetings, so I’m afraid I can’t glamourise them by putting in words like brand or exposure or partnership or enhancement or deal or OMG totes amazetastic. I mean, it’s not as if that’s even interesting, especially when it comes to bloggers.

No: these were real-life meetings, about real-life work. As boring as they sound, but necessary, nonetheless. Is there anything like the limbo between two functional meetings about entirely different things? I think not. Maybe the limbo between a party and a hangover, but that’s a whole other post.

So there I was, inching forward, foot by foot, coasting on the clutch like a teenager who’s about to fail their driving test, mulling over something which was discussed in my first meeting: namely productivity, or a lack thereof.

I was worried that too much arsing around in Blogland and SocialMediaVille had rendered me with the attention span of an over-medicated goldfish (see here, and here). How did one become productive again, I thought? Are there exercises you can do? What would they be like?

Think a thought! Hold it! Think an entirely related thought! Do 100 reps! Now wipe the sweat from your brow!

Oh Look! It’s Setting Up The Premise Time

It occurred to me that sitting in traffic is a very mindful experience: one which might actually be conducive to productivity.

You have to drive, so you’re forced to be exactly where you are, and only there.

Sure, you could take out your phone and respond at length to emails and text messages, but that’s both illegal and stupid. You could listen to music, or the radio, or sing, but in heavy traffic, that too can be perilous. It seems best to sit there and take in the leaves on the trees (presuming Ireland’s own hurricane Ophelia left any behind her last week), and the taillights of the car in front of you, and the sound of the engine grunting and shunting and generally complaining about not doing 120km an hour like it was supposed to.

And you’re forced to think. You might even come up with ideas for blog posts and books and specialist non-automatic stop-start transmission while you’re there, waiting to get where you’re going.

Embed from Getty Images

Then the traffic started moving again, albeit still at glacial pace. I perked up a bit, and moved my foot away from the brake. I was finally getting somewhere. My lane was moving; the one on my right wasn’t. I let one car in from a feeder lane; the driver raised a hand in thanks, and I felt smug and self-righteous. Another car forced its way in behind it without so much as an elbow, and I uttered a rude word. Shortly afterwards, my lane stopped moving. The one on my right sped up.

Time To Slap A Thematic Slant On It Time

This, I thought, is a lot like the business of writing. Isn’t it?

You’re content for a time, crawling along in the general direction of the end goal – be that developing a concept, finishing a draft, or publishing. It’s generally positive. You seem to be going the right way, at least, even if it’s going in stops and starts. It almost feels peaceful, in a sense.

Then you inevitably begin to notice some other aspects of the journey, such as exactly how many other cars are going the same way as you, some of which are noticeably faster. Some edge out in front of you. Some speed illegally down the bus lane and get away with it. Some of the drivers let you in. Others steal your spot in the queue. And there’s an abiding tendency to believe that you’re in the wrong lane, no matter what lane you’re in. Just as soon as you change lanes, the one you left goes faster. You feel like you can never win.

Dreadfully Shaky Conclusion Time

But one thing is for certain. You MUST stay on the road. If you stop for any other reason than to prevent injury, or you decide to exit down a slipway, or change direction, or turn around entirely and go back to where you came from, you will never get there. There will be other people on the same road, who do some of those things. But if you just keep writing, keep going, keep your foot on the accelerator to at least some degree, you’ll get there in the end. That’s what I thought.

And then I thought, Christ, I’m hungry. The tummy rumbles started. The analogising stopped. And I eventually got to my destination, whereupon I found the coffee station was closed. I made an executive decision not to extract any meaning from that. Which was extremely productive of me, if you think about it.

  35 comments for “Why Writing is Like Sitting in Rush-Hour Traffic Without Much To Worry About

  1. October 24, 2017 at 9:32 am

    Fabulicious one again and totes what I needed at the mo. – another Tuesday morning with Tea, Toast and Tara (I thought I’d cobble that together just in case for the day when you are looking for alliterative branded T-shirts because of your widespread fame). But seriously, I’m also struggling with motivation at the moment, maybe it’s seasonal? I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not in a competition but having said that, it does feel as though it is at times when others seem to be achieving what I wished I was..

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 24, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      Branded T-shirts. A fecking fabulous idea, lovely Liberty. Stick some Tequila and Tanqueray in there and I’m 100% on board. Perhaps a tarantula, too. I do like to be spontaneous. Glad you enjoyed today’s nonsense-masquerading-as-wisdom. May all your wishes come true!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. October 24, 2017 at 10:38 am

    I’m afraid I generally get writing ideas sitting in traffic, generally when there’s no pen about or I’m inching forward and so it’s not safe to divert attention from driving. By the time I move on I’ve a vague recollection of what I was thinking, but the specifics are gone!(:()

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 24, 2017 at 3:55 pm

      I’ve started to use the voice memo app on my phone for when I have ideas while I’m walking – but it’s a lot less dangerous finding the app when you’re on your feet than on wheels! So I can’t advocate that when driving. Unless you have a minion in the front seat who can hold the phone for you, obviously. I usually keep 2 or 3 nearby just to be sure 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. October 24, 2017 at 11:24 am

    So spot-on about traffic and commuting Tara! Honestly, you reached right into my heart and tugged with that brilliant dictum about the magically-lesser speed of your own lane. Drives me crazy- though of course, for me that’s a short drive.

    But let’s not flinch from the conclusion so close to the goal line. By this analogy, all the other drivers are indeed WRITERS. We’re all moving in that “same general direction” and partly because we all think we’re moving too slowly, we look around at the other drivers and naturally feel competitive. Natural, but not correct. We may all be on this road, but no one, not a single driver in sight, is headed precisely to your own destination. Unless you turn back, you won’t share the road with another soul in any meaningful sense. Rush hour traffic is as much an inevitable event as it is a contradiction in terms. That guy whizzing down a country road at 120 kph is on a good stretch- there will be days when you’re there too. But he’s not stealing your story, just having a good day.

    Whenever I feel the writing is going “too slowly” it’s either (10%) too much going on at the Alleged Real World job or (90%) because there’s something I’m missing in the tale and cannot do without until it’s been properly thought of. And hey look at that- often turns out you were going too slowly in traffic because some dope up ahead was cutting in too fast and got into a dandy wreck. You creep by and feel a little empathy, reflect that it wasn’t you, and hope all the writers- I mean drivers- inside are going to be OK.

    Liked by 3 people

    • October 24, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      That’s far too much truth and wisdom for this blog, Will, are you sure you want to waste it on us?! But yes, absolutely, I am in agreement, concurring and nodding vehemently at everything there. Competition in writing is senseless, unless you were writing extremely bad erotic fan fiction in 2011 and your name wasn’t EL James. Just like rush hour traffic, it’s the utter pointlessness of raging against the inevitable.

      Liked by 2 people

      • October 24, 2017 at 5:04 pm

        Waaal, not to bang on too loudly, but most of us epic-fantasy dudes have been under the GoT shadow for some time, looking for the fecking flashlight. But yes, pointless.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. October 24, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    I’ve been stuck in Dublin traffic, trying to get to the bloody airport before check-in closes. Can’t say I was feeling terribly mindful that day.
    The activity that generates most of my ideas and subplots is mowing the lawn. It takes very little brain activity and lasts an hour (front & back – it’s up to you to decide whether I have a teeny mower or several acres of grass). It’s also like writing because you can see it getting more problematic every day, taunting you to do something about it.
    I end up with loads of ideas which I then fail to write down because I’m tired and want a cup of tea.

    Liked by 5 people

    • October 24, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      Only thing is, trying to get to the airport before check-in closes qualifies as something to worry about! I feel your pain. I’ve done the panicked airport dash so many times now there is a special area of my brain reserved to deal with it. It can be defused with alcohol, though, which is very convenient.
      I like your lawnmowing strategy, but think you need to bring a voice recorder with you next time. Perhaps a Bluetooth headset, just to show your neighbours how important you are?

      Liked by 2 people

      • October 24, 2017 at 4:23 pm

        On listening to recorded notes whilst mowing the lawn: “The main character needs to Wwwwrrrrrrrzzzzzvvvvvvvvvvv vvvwwwwwmmmmmm vvvwwwwwmmmmmm vvvwwwwwmmmmmm bbrrrzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzvwip and then everything will be awesome.”

        Liked by 1 person

  5. October 24, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    I guess it’s the likes of E L James who speed illegally down the bus lane and get away with it?

    Liked by 3 people

    • October 24, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      Ha! I’d written that comment above before I read yours, Scarlet! Yes indeed. Not only did she speed illegally but I believe she ran a few people over while she was at it. I would have been so puzzled and despondent if I’d been writing in her genre. Imagine how it must have seemed for truly talented writers of erotica, too. What a slap in the fender that would’ve been.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. October 24, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.


  7. October 24, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Why is it, that we always get really great ideas when we are a million miles from paper and pen?

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 24, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      Well, if I had to guess, I’d say because the less we write our ideas down, the better they are 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  8. October 25, 2017 at 10:53 am

    I don’t drive much anymore. Sold the car to pay the mortgage, paid the mortgage, sold the home to fund travelling, and Tasmania is such a long way from everywhere, now that I’m in everywhere I take the train. But I digress: on the writing superhighway, I’m not in the wrong lane, I’m on the wrong side of the road, best if I pull over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 25, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      Well, if you’re 100% sure you’re definitely going the wrong way, Kathy, perhaps: having said that, sometimes the wrong direction can sometimes lead to unique and delightful destinations!


  9. October 25, 2017 at 11:08 am

    That was surprisingly inspirational. And it reminds me of the famous Confucian quote, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” I’m now feeling better about my publishing endeavors’ inability to move faster. Indeed, after reading this, I’m feeling calmer in general.

    I hope it’s the last time something like this happens.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. October 25, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Irreverent as ever, but – for me – a very timely reminder as I restart after a long lull. Thanks, Tara!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. October 26, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    As I have temporarily abandoned my ‘car’ in order to complete more enthralling and even more responsible tasks, I’m probably the one causing the jam in the first place. I will get behind the wheel again someday. I like to finish projects even if I take the odd detour on the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 28, 2017 at 5:13 pm

      Nothing wrong with a good detour Hilary… Think my whole life has been a detour and far better than I ever planned. Having said that I’m not the best planner though 😜

      Liked by 1 person

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