Monday, March 12, 2012

WRITING AT 30,000 FEET

I discovered a writing secret on my recent trip to LA. In the 757 aircraft the pressure equalizes, the lights dim, and the white noise of the engines is so loud it feels like it's coming from deep inside my own body. I've heard the safety instructions, eaten my take on board lunch, since sandwiches on the plane are too costly, and I've drunk enough water to keep me from getting a dehydration headache. I have also read several chapters in the novel I brought along on vacation and listened to Adele's album on my i-pod. There are several hours left of this cross country flight.

I take out the spiral notebook I am using to write first draft chapters of my novel and here is where the secret reveals itself. Stuck in the plane at 35,000 feet about mountains and streams, nestled into the narrow, even for me, seat of the plane, strapped to my seat with few distractions, the story comes to me like a film on a 3-D screen. My characters' voices speak in my head, the movements shift in my inner vision and their conflicts spark a flow of writing I don't often find at home.

In my writing room at home I can find all kinds of diversions from writing. I can go get a snack or a drink, pick up a book, check email or writing websites, go outside and take a walk, or sit on the couch sharing a pot of tea with my husband. But up here above the clouds all I can do is write. Twelve pages of longhand drama flow from my pen. Conflicts resolve and new ones are born. My main character chooses to follow a path I never expected she would turn down. The writing comes easily, albeit rough and in need of revision, and I have another chapter done.

On the return flight back to New York I finish ten more longhand pages. I do some revision on chapter two so I can read it at my writing group meeting this week. It's a writing miracle. As the plane makes a smooth landing, I land another critical plot turn and close the notebook. I feel prolific and successful. If only I could travel cross country every day this novel could be finished in record time. But I take what I can get and I'm thankful for a safe flight and some uninterrupted writing time.