Thursday, April 2, 2009

Inspiration of the Road

There's a red bench off I-90 (I won't say where, but if you're traveling in the right direction through the right part of the right state you can't really miss it) that never fails to inspire an idea or two whenever I pass by it. I haven't yet taken the nearest exit to fully investigate it, but it's on a trip I make often enough that I suspect one of these days I will. It's an incongruous piece of furniture that looks wholly out of place where it is, and eventually here I'll take more about it in another post, but it's not the bench itself that I'm focusing on today.

Rather, it's those moments of inspiration I get from being on the road. Somehow taking a trip by car seems filled with much more possibility than going by air. (Or by train. Which I enjoy, and I suppose I ought to round out the vehicular trifecta here with another entry on train travel.) I am always tempted when I pass by the exits I'm not getting off at, to make that exit anyway and see where it goes. Mostly these are the more rural exits, the ones that just seem to veer off the highway and disappear. Exits that are bombarded by Walmarts and McDonald's and gas/convenience stores hold much less appeal.

To a certain extent I suppose that's just the general lure of the unknown. I've always been one to explore, and seeing as I lack the money for real travel (or just the guts to strap on a backpack and venture over the land for parts unknown) these road trips offer a vicarious approximation. Prepackaged rest stops tend to take away some from the experience, but it's always interesting to see what other people are traveling along your route that day. I am more often interested in places than the people that inhabit them, but will confess that people are interesting, too, and certainly come with their own stories. Even if I have to make them up.

So it never fails that, even if nothing concrete emerges from the trip, it does manage to stimulate my imagination. That "what if" factor that I think all good writers have in their brain often goes into overdrive I pass the little places that seem full of character (and might just as easily be boring and mundane if I got the real story behind them - like the bench) and I wonder about the history of the place or the people. What brought them there - literally or figuratively - that has led them to be in that spot in that moment.

And sometimes a more concrete idea will take hold, and I get to fully create that set of circumstances.

After carefully fictionalizing it so I don't get sued, of course.

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