It occurred to me as I was riding my bike home yesterday from work, that writing books is similar to riding a motorcycle. I love to ride my cruiser. I commute to work on it on nice days and take long rides/camping trips with my brother-in-law. But, as you ride a motorcycle, you realize that it’s very different from driving a car. Here are a few thoughts on how writing and motorcycling match-up:
1. You have to take the long, mid, and short view. When you ride a motorcycle, one thing you absolutely must do is watch the road. But, it’s not just that simple. If you take a motorcycle safety class, your instructor will teach you to look out 50 feet ahead, 20 feet ahead, and directly in front of you to avoid road hazards and other issues that could potentially kill you. Writing a book is the same way. When you’re writing, you must look as far ahead as possible to avoid writing anything in the moment that will ruin something else later. Always keep the ending in mind. But you also have to think one or two chapters ahead to make sure everything is flowing properly toward that end. Finally, your writing must happen in the second you write it. As you write, watch out for dangers to your story; things that could cause it to crash and burn.
2. Lean into the curves. As you ride your motorcycle, you cannot simply turn the steering wheel as you would in a car and expect to go sharply around a curve. You have to lean with the bike and let physics do the driving. Writing is very similar in that you must allow the story to take you where it will naturally go. If you fight the laws of nature, you will wreck your story.
3. Have fun! If you are constantly worrying about whether or not you will run off the road or get run over by a tractor-trailer while you’re riding your bike, it’s gonna suck. Same with writing. Don’t let the potentially life-ending stuff scare you. Just enjoy the ride!
4. Don’t object fixate. Finally, there is a rule in riding a motorcycle that has to do with not focusing on objects as you ride. For instance, most incidents with motorcycles are caused when the rider looks at a tree or lightpole or other object on the side of the road, then runs directly into it. This phenomena is called “object fixation” and it will happen if you keep your eyes off the road and let yourself be draw into staring at the one thing that will kill you. In your writing, if you let yourself be drawn off the road and into a tangent or something that will kill your story, you have object fixation. Just keep your eyes on the road and get home safe.