In the mornings, when I take the kids to school, we walk. Well, I walk. Lucia is on her bicycle, Malachi on his pushbike, Shiloh in her stroller, and Stella on the leash. We’re fortunate that their schools are relatively close to our home so it would seem really lazy not to use the opportunity. Besides, Stella and I get some exercise in the process and that is never a bad thing. Each trip–the route I follow is circumferential, stopping off at our local superette on the way back to get milk and bread (and cigarettes)–lasts about half an hour or so.
Part of the journey takes us along a river ( Clive River here in Hawke’s Bay), and if we’re early enough and the water is smooth and still and dew on the lawns sparkle with freshness, you can’t help but feel inspired for the day’s writing business.
I use this opportunity to plot. To analyse that first draft of a story I recently finished (or any draft I might be working on at the time) and I ponder the ways I can improve it. I think of the plot holes that need fixing, character dialogue and reactions that do not seem quite true to the situation or character, and I think of words. Words that need adding, that can paint the picture in far more detail than the rough sketch I had made.
You’ll be surprised how many ideas appear freshly minted when you take a stroll. When you push up a rise and your dog pulls at the leash, and you say, “Stella, calm down girl!”, reigning her in just before you pass under the bridge, and suddenly you recall a description that would be oh so apt and beautiful, and would create an extra scene, which, now that you think of it, should have been in there in the first place, even if your story is thousands of words too long. The converse, of course, is also true. You remember scenes you thought were awesome and needed. Now you feel embarrassed by them.
Then you hear a small voice shout, “Daddy!” and you look down and see your kid smiling at you and the adorableness just kills you and you realise you’re standing on your driveway already.
The afternoon routine works pretty much the same way, except more sweating under a hotter sun and moody kids, but the plotting hasn’t stopped. It never will.