In the morning I have a visceral urge to hit the road, even though there’s no rush. Why am so I eager to get from Amarillo to Tulsa? Because the point of the journey is to get somewhere. Otherwise, you’re not on a journey, you’re wandering. How could I possibly sit in a motel room until noon when Tulsa beckons?
At the end of the day, after hours of highway driving, I don’t have the mental energy to form a single thought. The creativity’s gone. The brain is missing.
So I realize, to my horror, my writing depends on familiar settings and habits. I’m like Iron Man: useless without my exoskeleton, and not even as witty as Robert Downey, Jr. Of course he has writers.
I’ve written reasonably good material at conferences. When I’m settled in a spot for more than 24 hours, I can do it. So it’s not the foreign environment that kills me. It’s the intense vigilance of highway driving. Keeping an eye on Jackknife George growing ever larger in my mirror, an old guy with thick glasses driving a dirty white 18-wheeler, lurching from side to side in the lane, probably been driving all night. When I stop for gas he gets ahead and I have to dart past him again then watch him slowly creep up on me again like something out of an early Spielberg movie.
The short-term memory goes on long road trips. I can hardly remember the road sign I just read, let alone two ideas I wanted to associate. I don’t think it’s possible to write without short term memory. But maybe I should force myself to do it. The result might be interesting.