It’s warming up here in Phoenix, but I still put on a full-head helmet when I ride my motorcycle. Every time I put it on, I marvel that someone with claustrophobia wears a full-head helmet. It took me a month of work to get in on my head for more than 15 seconds, but I didn’t quit trying. Even now, years later, my heart speeds up when I pull it over my face, but I wouldn’t ride without it. My practical side loves the details–the clear face shield, an additional slide-down tinted shield that’s retractable with one hand. The front of the helmet unlocks with one hand and moves up and over the top of the helmet.
Why would I go through all this trouble? Several practical reasons: it doesn’t rain here much, so there is always dust on the roads. Small rocks stay on the road and get tossed into your face. A three-quarters helmet leaves the bottom quarter of your face unprotected. I’d finish rides and have a film of greasy dirt from my upper lip to my chin and several small cuts.
We also have crunchy bugs here in the desert (crunchy bugs are the ones who have a chitin carapace to protect their wings) and they hurt at 60 mph.
Full-head helmets are also useful in the case of an accident. They keep your nose and jaw from being crushed, and they keep more skin on your face. Useful. As my brain is the part I need most for my business, I wanted the full-head helmet, claustrophobia or not. With its larger face opening, I have complete peripheral vision. It’s the helmet for me. Even in a state that has no helmet laws. I have friends who insist that riding without a helmet is the “real” experience.
Oddly, I’ve had this discussion about creativity and “real” experiences, too. Sometimes we have to give ourselves boundaries, hard-edged fences, to function. Sure, it would be easier to write the sucker-punch, highly-emotional piece. And it’s easier to say “it’s a real experience, so it’s valid to write it.” We can avoid the hard work of editing, choosing, forcing ourselves to write with the easy excuse of “it’s real to me.”
Writers need to demand more from themselves than even their readers do. It’s too easy to reach for the emotional flash. But it won’t last. Half an hour later, the reader will be hungry for meaning again. And you will want to write something that is meaningful, powerful, energizing. So put on the full-head helmet and get busy. The world is hungry for a gravel-rattling ride of writing.