The busier I get, the more I like to linger. I linger over the coffee pot in the morning, drinking up the steam. I linger in the lunch room, over a book I don’t have time to read. I linger in the shower and on the yoga mat and by my scooter as I’m leaving work in the afternoon.
These moments are me moments. Moments to notice things, to breathe. To watch the clouds, to sniff the air, to turn my mind to higher things than just the work of my hands.
Lately I’ve been lingering more and more by train tracks, those ugly rusted lines of metal, and I’ve been longing to go someplace. Honestly, this longing never leaves me, but it’s hard to find the time or the money to go. Planning complicates things. Planning adds snags to the equation, reasons to stay at home.
But then I found myself with a day off in the middle of the week and something whispered to me: this is your chance. Go.
And so I did. I jumped on a train in the early morning and I went. I followed the tracks up into the mountains, where the cool wind blows and plateaus and gullies are blanketed by trees.
I took a day. I went on an adventure.
And so I lingered. I looked, I listened, I ate far more than was good for me, and then I stayed a little longer, because two hours just wasn’t enough. The mountains do something to me. I feel freer, somehow, that close to the sky.
And after, after food and fires and lookouts and adventure, I stepped back on a train and let it carry me back down, to the city, and along the coast to home. I spent nine hours on a train that day, but it was worth it. And besides, the journey was half the point.
I’m writing a book set on a train at the moment, though “writing” sometimes seems too generous a word. Drafting, too, seems wrong because that to me implies logic and linear thought. Instead, I’m circling, dancing across the page, generating reams and reams of material, some of which I’ll use, most I’ll probably discard. It doesn’t bother me, really. This is the mulch, the fertilizer I’m sowing into the rich ground of my imagination, so that one day soon my crops will grow tall and proud. I’m preparing a way for the story to come.
Today, Laini Taylor released the very first scene she ever wrote for Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It bears only a small resemblance to the finished product, but you can see the seeds of what was to come. You can see the way she set her mind free to roam, to create, to ask questions she didn’t yet have answers to.
I think, sometimes, when we sit down and write “Chapter One” at the top of the page, we start creating borders in our mind. This is what a good first chapter should look like. This is how a story should begin. This is what has been done before. Sometimes we find ourselves wandering tired old paths, recreating stories we’ve told before, rather than starting something new.
It had never occurred to me that maps and petrol money and finding cheap accommodation wasn’t necessary to have an adventure. It had never occurred to me I could just step on a train and go. But oh, what a day I had when I did.
So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m lingering on the page, sniffing the air, turning my mind to higher things. I’m hopping on a train. I’m adventuring. I’m going someplace new.