As Soon As You Drive It Off the Lot


It's 2016, and for the first time in my life, I know how to drive a car. This is a really late-in-the-game change for me, and I'm not entirely sure what it means. Most of my life has been spent outside of cars. Not driving has affected every aspect of my life. It's definitely shaped me as a writer.

Writers need to read, and most of the reading I've done has taken place on public transportation. It was just organic. For a long time I lived far enough away from the city and rode a slow enough train line to give myself more than two hours of subway reading time each day. It became a meditation for me. A subway commute has so many stimuli, you have to go somewhere else when you're riding, unless you want to sit around just staring into the abyss. All the noise, all the people, all the motion of a subway ride actively pushes you further into a book. It creates a type of hyper-focus. Reading on a bus is alirght, but it doesn't come close to this subway effect.

It was also nice to be able to write down anything I had to write down without worrying about pulling over to the side of the street. Or running a car off the road trying to get down that perfectly-phrased sentence. That applies to the subway, walking, and to a lesser degree, bike riding.

Bike riding doesn't obviously make you a better writer. Obviously you can't do both at the same time. I don't think I've ever composed in my head on a bike; there's just too much going on. But I am sure that the exercise, velocity, and active thinking that bike riding combines has to be similar to the effect writers who run always cite as a huge influence on their work. If it was possible to do fMRI scans of bike rider brains while they navigate city streets I'm sure most of the brain would be lit up. I don’t want a car to take that away from me.

More greenhouse emissions, less reading time, less brain activity and exercise. A new car depreciates the minute you drive it off the lot. Apparently, once you start to drive, so does your writing.

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