Seven years ago, I drove almost 2000 miles in two days. I traveled from the Pacific Northwest to Iowa, from “the edge to the middle”. I drove about 12 hours one day, and about 18 hours the next. I was the kid who couldn’t find their way out of the neighborhood, the one who never liked road trips, and wasn’t entirely sure how to read a map. I packed my shit and took off for a better life.
Now that I think about it, it sounds familiar. It sounds like Bevie. It didn’t occur to me until last week how much it sounded like her. She left Nebraska for San Francisco, then on to Wyoming… She picked up her life and she was gone. Bevie didn’t come into being at all until about 3 years ago, and then she was just a couple of notes in a notebook. She didn’t really turn into someone until August or so, when Oliver and I sat down to write Rabbit in the Road. That’s when her character developed and deepened. But I think the Bevie-seeds were sown a long time ago, when I took that long-ass drive.
Would Bevie be the same if I hadn’t taken that trip? If I had never moved away from my home of 27 years, a woman alone on the road, would I have a story about a woman on the road in me? Maybe. Would I know about all the empty spaces in this country, all the lonely corners and tucked-away desolation America holds? Would I have seen how easy it really is to disappear in a land this large? Maybe.
It wouldn’t have the ring of authenticity in me. I might manage to make it sound legit on the page, but it wouldn’t ring clear IN ME. Because I did it, I know when it’s right.
A week ago, Oliver and I drove almost 2000 miles in three days, from the middle to the edge. I’m back in the Pacific Northwest after seven years away. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, there will be a story that comes out of that drive. It might not be a story about a long trip, but something about that little adventure will be the authenticity I need to make a story ring clear. Maybe the snowy mountains sidling up the the road, or the man who lost his dog in the hotel parking lot will make it to the page. Maybe the cheap gas in Idaho or the bar where you could join your neighbors to watch Survivor will be in a story soon. Maybe Des Moines, that I’ve left behind, or the Northwest, now that I’m seeing it with fresh eyes…
Inspiration is everywhere. It’s in a drive to the store, or in paying a stack of bills at the kitchen table. It’s in changing diapers, in pouring tea, in sweeping the porch clear of leaves and dust. It’s in big things and everyday things. You already have everything you need.
What inspires you? It doesn’t have to be a big thing, some grandiose moment. Tell me about it.