Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Not writing, not thinking

It has been three weeks since I wrote anything for this blog. They've been busy weeks. My house is a lot cleaner than it was on that day when I last posted. I've blocked and rehearsed many scenes from Guys and Dolls with junior high kids, some of whom try to do all the things that make the script work. Others are just trying to get through this experience without stepping outside their personal cloud. I've knit twelve inches of terrifically complicated cables and I've ridden out more than one personal crisis of confidence.

But do I know what I think about any of this? Does any of it matter? What to write about? Oh, gosh. I'm clearing my throat again, hemming and hawing instead of coming up with a direct and interesting first sentence.

My husband, in his reporting and writing days, would think up his lead before he sat down to write the story. This meant that on some weekday mornings he was in the shower for a very long time, but when he emerged from the bathroom, he knew what he was going to say. If it was an idea he really liked and felt compelled to share, I'd have to weigh in on it while packing lunches and finding the kids' shoes. My reaction was usually something along the lines of "Yeah, good idea. Sure." (Critical thinking is not compatible with multitask mothering, especially while the coffee is still brewing,)

I've tried to emulate his good example, often with success. But I can't think of first sentences in the shower. Shower-thinking, for me, is 85 percent emotion--great for coming up with arguments and rationalizations, but not too good for rational thinking. My best first sentences are thought up behind the wheel of the car. Maybe it's the need to consider all those other drivers on the road that focuses my attention on presenting my experiences to others. Or maybe it's just the boredom of driving laps around my suburb, from school to supermarket to home.

Is thinking and driving as dangerous as talking on a cell phone while driving? I don't think so. Phone conversations yank the mind here and there with news and petty irritations. They demand attention. Thinking is a slow and steady climb up a rocky mountain, with frequent pauses to adjust your socks or look about you. It's a lot easier to stop thinking than it is to stop talking, and very easy to be distracted from a thought that's not going anywhere. Flip down the turn signal, complete that left turn, and your mind as well as your vehicle may take off in a new direction.

I have noticed that thinking while driving may affect the car in funny ways. One morning, while taking my daughter to school, I was thinking about a knitting problem, and the car decided to go to the yarn store, rather than the middle school. Go figure.

I've run on for too long without stumbling into a topic. Will tomorrow's errands be sufficient time for me to think?

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