Friday, June 4, 2010

Driving Lessons

My darling daughter is learning to drive. I've been her primary teacher for a few months. I remember the first time I took her out. There are claw marks on the door handle! But with each trip out, she's gotten better and more confident. I believe I've managed to get through the experience without getting too many gray hairs. My door handle is starting to return to its original shape as I become more relaxed with her sitting behind the wheel. In addition to my personal lessons, we've paid for her summer school driving lessons. Today she gets behind the wheel of a huge Ford Expedition.

Fortunately for the people at large, she is not leaving the parking lot till Monday.

She's nervous about driving a different car. I don't blame her. Driving is a scary deal until you master it. And even then, despite many years of experience, driving is potentially dangerous, even deadly. The most experienced driver is no match for the inexperienced or incapacitated driver.

It occurred to me that learning to drive is much like mastering the writing craft. How?

*You can't go anywhere until you switch on the ignition and turn on the car. Well, you can't become a writer until you stop talking about doing it and you start actually putting words on paper. How many people have you met who "are going to write a book?" How many of those people have written a book? Talk is cheap, switch on your writing ignition and get started.

*You can't go anywhere until you put the car into DRIVE and move forward. If you are writing and you're not submitting your work, you aren't going to get anywhere. You'll be stuck in your writing driveway with a manuscript. You have got to get your work out of the garage and send it somewhere. You have got to risk rejection just as a driver has to risk the road if you wish to reach your destination.

*Driving is a skill you must master one step at a time. You can't become the next NYT best seller until you hone you craft and build your skills. I am not the writer I was 4.5 years ago when I wrote my first manuscript. I hope to be a much better writer than I am in 5 years. How? Practice! Practice writing every day and you will be become a better writer.

*People drive at different speeds. Some people hit the accelerator and reach their destinations fast. Other people go too fast and they crash and burnout. Some people go very slow and watch other cars go around them, but eventually they might get there. Other people follow the speed limit. They are less likely to crash and most likely to reach their destination at the right time. My dad used to say, "Better late, than never." I agree. Find your comfortable writing pace. Go at your speed limit. You will get there.

*No matter how skilled, drivers are not guaranteed a safe ride. There is always danger and problems you will encounter along the way. Potholes, road rage, poor road management, other accidents along the way, flat tires, no gas stations to refuel--they are all out there. Be aware of the dangers and pitfalls when you get behind the wheel and prepare for them mentally. Writers must refuel, dodge negativity, fill their minds with positive thoughts, avoid creating negativity and prepare for all possibilities.

*There are always detours when you're driving. The same can be said about writing. Life happens. And sometimes the detours offer a better, different way to reach your destination. Be willing to adjust your driving and writing goals. Be willing to adjust the way you believe you will get to your destination. Everybody has a different, unique way of reaching their goals and destinations. Be flexible about how you will reach your destination.

Today my daughter is getting into a Ford Expedition and learning how to park, perform turns and more. Next week she will be out on the road with 5 other teenagers (God bless the coaches who are teaching them!). In a year she'll be driving her own vehicle to school. If I hadn't sat in the car with her for that first lesson, in the church parking lot, with my hand gripping the door and my heart lodged in my throat, she would not have the confidence or skills to drive.

Don't be afraid to take changes on yourself. Write your stories, send them out into the world, keep learning how to write and improve your craft. Develop your skills and confidence will naturally grow out of that development. And don't forget to enjoy the scenery along the way as you drive toward achieving your dream.

Happy Writing!


Ann said...

I have been driving for longer than I care to site. But driving a car I am not familiar with sets my pulse a racing and not in a good way.

Writing can be just as challenging. I suffer all the same insecurities writing as I do driving. Am I on the right side of the road. Which way is east. Am I using the right word. Is my MC captivating. Oh so many insecurities.

Piedmont Writer said...

What a fantastic post and so right on! My mother taught me how to drive in a cemetery. I'm not sure what that says about me now.

Christine said...

Ann: I am not comfortable driving different cars than my own. But I learn to get past that discomfort and press on the pedal. I think writing is like that for me as well. I just switched to a new length for my current WIP (from Category to ST) and it's been tough. But I am learning and my comfort level is going up with each new page I write.

Christine said...

Piedmont Writer: A cemetery? Wow. Well, that's so funny. Your mom sounds like she has a great sense of humor.

Happy Writing!

Wendy Marcus said...

Great comparisons, Christine!

I am in the process of teaching my son to drive. While you're driving with your daughter, how many times have you heard, "I know, mom!" and "Do you think I can make it?"

Christine said...

Wendy, I am so understanding your pain. Seriously, I have a permanent bruise on the heel of my right hand from death gripping the door handle. He'll get through it and so will you--but oh, the first day she drives SOLO I will be having a major panic attack until she lets me know she has arrived at her destination.