Mary Chapin (yes, after that pseudo-living room experience I feel like we’re on a first name basis) brought up work and travel, which resonated with me because, in just a few short hours, I too will be on the road. Writing and composing on the road is impossible for Mary Chapin. She claims she needs her desk. She claims she needs her dogs and familiar surroundings. And her usual routine. She used to worry about spending weeks on the road singing the same old material without producing a single new song. Finally, after some advice from a veteran song-writer, she learned to let it go. She learned to be where she is and do what she does when she’s there without wishing she were somewhere else doing something different. So, you may ask, how is this balance? Sounds more like she’s surrendering to circumstances, something very easy but very dangerous for a writer to do. You surrender to circumstances and your bathtubs are clean, your children have matching socks and your pedicure is up-to-date. But you don’t have any words on the page. No, what you have is a case of neurosis and a dust free environment. So how can Mary Chapin do this? How can she surrender to circumstances, surrender to the road? Look at all the time she’s wasted! Time on the bus, time in the hotel room. How can she ever become successful if she stops working? Oh wait. . . never mind.
She must be doing something right.
What she’s doing right is seeing the forest and letting the days on the road slip by like so many pine trees in the rear view mirror. The desk will be there when she gets back. So will the dogs, the routine. And so will the lyrics. That’s what I keep telling myself as I pull out the old roller bag and pack for six weeks. I, too, need my desk to write. I, too, need my routine and a room of my own, which I will most definitely not have in the tiny flat in London that my husband and I will call home for the next few weeks. Plus, I’ll be doing my other work. I’ll be teaching as well as traveling. My head will be filled with the Bloomsbury Group and Hampton Court and Cambridge and making sure my students get on the right train in time. I will live with the problem that is life on the road and enjoy every minute of it. At times like these, the creative process doesn’t stop; it simply goes on underground, moving with the efficiency of the London Tube (okay—maybe not the best metaphor for efficiency, but a good metaphor for the way my creative mind sometimes works).
And so I leave my routine for a few weeks to travel and work in London and to introduce my students to some of the most amazing places and literary figures in British Literature. I will take my notebook, jot things down. I’ll play what-if with new characters and situations, and I will be more ready to put pen to paper (yes, I really do that) when I get home.
In the meantime, if I get inspired and have decent wifi, I’ll post a blog from the road.