Most of my husband’s family lives more than a thousand miles away. When we visit, we drive. It takes two days, although once we did it one brutal, butt-busting, body-contorting sixteen-hour day.
Along the route, which takes us through three states, sights catch our interest and we say, “we ought to stop and look at that,” but we never do. We are so focused on getting to our destination in the most direct and timely manner that we don’t stop. There’s a sense of urgency, even though truly there is no rush. There’s no reason why we can’t stop at a museum or an interesting store or some little historical monument. But our trips to visit family are concise and to-the-point.
Several years ago, however, hubby and I took three weeks to drive to Washington, D.C., crossing United States almost from coast to coast. Along the way we stopped at national monuments, museums, and historical sites. We marveled at the seemingly endless miles of corn, talked about why farmhouses always seem to be white and no other color, and why barns, once painted, appear never to be painted again. We counted dead skunks (fifteen total). We scooted into states just so we could say we’d been there.
Starting out we knew it would be a long trip so we settled in for the journey and felt no urgency to get to DC in the quickest, most direct way possible. Our attitude was mellow, our pace moderate. We knew we’d get to our destination, but because we expected the journey to be long, we relaxed and enjoyed the ride and the sights along the way.
I embarked on another kind of long journey on Saturday…I started a new “novel” that two days earlier I had no idea I would write! It originated as a short story: brief, concise, and rather quickly written. Except, once I parked at my destination, my muse informed me it was only a pit stop in a much longer journey.
Until Saturday, I had been primarily occupied with editing and revising a novella and a novel written in late 2010. New writing projects took the form of short stories to fulfill my commitment to Red Lipstick Journals. This new novel (and only time will tell whether it’s a novel or a novella) is the first new long work I’ve begun since I finished the first draft of one of those other works in December.
Writing is writing, but it’s a different feeling to compose a short story than a chapter of a novel. A short story feels like the car trip to visit family. Concise and laser-focused on the finish. A novel feels like the cross-country road trip. No urgency, just the enjoyment of what may come. I have a destination in mind and a general map of how I plan to get there, but the process is so much more relaxed and mellower.
I missed that feeling. It’s great to be on the road again.