Yes, yes..I hear you..the title’s a spoof on the bestseller of the ’70’s, ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Mechanics’..great book and an interesting exploration of values. My theme here is a lot less lofty because I just think there’s a link, somewhere, between (my) writing and owning and riding a motorcycle. And, if there’s not..there should be…
Writing needs inspiration and that can be hard to come by. I guess everyone has their own method for turning on the tap of creative juices and I have always found that the feet-in-the-wind and wind-in-the-hair experience offered by biking is a great way to achieve it. Picture yourself on a sunny day on a winding, mountain road closed in by towering trees and scented, green fields astride your machine with nothing to disturb you (unless you have a pillion) other than the zephyrs caressing your face.
This, for me, is just the environment I need to get those creative juices flowing. It’s a great limbo which offers a neutral space in the head very receptive to ideas. They seem to enter one by one and marinate there, gently jostling one another for prominence in your story as you pay them indirect attention, watching them fall like jigsaw pieces, all by themselves, into hitherto unimagined places.
It’s passive attention, by the way, not the active kind which can overheat and maybe lead to writer’s block by over-concentrating on your storyline. And it’s passive because a large part of your concentration is, however sub-consciously, tied up in keeping the bike on the road: braking; changing gears; keeping that peripheral vision tuned in to your surroundings (however benign they may be); listening for any sound of mechanical ailment, however slight; watching your mirrors..etc, etc
You’ll find a good part of your attention is deflected in this way and it leaves headroom for this neutral space to occur.
But as much as writing’s about dreaming and fantasizing, it’s also about the need for those ideas to be kept on some kind of leash, rather like the strings on a kite. Otherwise, they’ll jump clean out of your head and hammer off into the cosmos. And this is where motorcycle mechanics come in – as the great leveler.
There I am, heading down the impossibly beautiful hillside of Sans Soucis, on the east coast of Mahe, principal island of Seychelles, on a deliciously windy road which allows marvellous panaoramas of the west coast to explode in my vision at every single bend. The sun is out, its rays shielded by a convoy of puffy, cotton wool clouds which transform them into spears striking the hillside in patches, creating a soft, dappled light.
All is well with the world, and with my storyline, some of which has evolved nicely in the neutral ambiance provided by the ride. Scully, my protagonist, is shaping up well and I’m beginning to like my ‘baddies’ a lot. Ian McKenna, the Holywood script writer who, disgusted with the lack of new ideas in the film industry of the early 90’s, resigned to hold a course on creative writing I attended, would have been proud. Jesus, they’re bad! Almost embarrassingly so. I’m happy with the back story too, although juggling two separate stories a century apart so that they don’t get caught up in each others’ hair, but still feed off each other, has not been easy, but it’s working.
The physical setting has been easier because I lived on the remote atoll where ‘Kolony’ takes place for nigh on 20 years and I know it well: its phenomenal natural beauty… and its dangers. Those elements have now melded to make a convincing backdrop which I have come to know like the back of my hand. (TBC)