Creativity Lessons from My Motorcycle (Cont’d)

Last week, we took a ride up the Blue Ridge mountains in Eastern Virginia. I came late to motorcycle riding and have to make up for lost time. The lesson of riding is as complex and refreshing as the scenery.

We were riding along easy switchbacks (twists and turns in the road as it winds up a mountain’s brow) and I noticed “Road Work” signs. I wasn’t driving fast, so I figured I ‘d see these workers before I had to make adjustments. We passed an abandoned yellow V-Dot truck and I wondered where the workers were.images.jpeg

Around the next corner, I found out. Sort of. As suddenly as I could see around the corner, I saw a patchwork of color and texture on the road. They were patching the road and what I saw was loose gravel, the motorcycle rider’s nemesis. Smart not to hit the brakes, just roll off the throttle and stay in the lane. No fancy steering. I felt the front wheel bite into the gravel and felt the back wheel chop over the soft road surface, trying to find a comfortable spot. It was, no doubt, a skid. It takes real will power not to jam on the brakes, even more not to simply use the front brake, conveniently located right next to the throttle.

I accelerated a little and the back wheel settled down. I used the uneven surface to slow the bike, grateful that I wasn’t going fast enough to have the wheels spit up rocks.

And I had that sudden understanding that creativity works like a motorcycle: when you aren’t on solid ground, don’t do anything quickly. Continue doing what you always do until you get used to your surroundings.

About half a mile later, we came across a road worker holding a Stop sign. We rolled to a stop and asked her what was up. She was stopping traffic on this side so the car leading the stream of cars from the other side could use the whole road. I wondered what the rest of the road would be like. I imagined harsh switchbacks covered in gravel. I began to sweat. Many of the mountain roads don’t have guardrails, just a 90-foot drop into a rocky valley.

Another good creativity rule: Plan ahead, but don’t let fear do the planning. Depend on what you know to develop thoughts for what you don’t know. And leave room for new ideas.

The ‘follow me’ truck slid to a stop next to the road worker. Cars trundled by us in the opposite lane. We waved the line of cars ahead of us to go first. Then, leaving lots of room between the last gravel-flinging car and my helmet, we started to follow the road. Creativity rule: If you aren’t a leader, let others take the lead. Decide what you want to contribute.

The joke was on me. The first half mile behind the ‘follow me’ truck were over gravel, but after that, the patches were fresh, but had been steamrolled. The dangerous part was behind me. I could use the whole road to clear the fresh patches without worrying about oncoming traffic. The cars rolled over the fresh patches, tar rattling under the car, spinning out behind their wheels. Creativity rule: you don’t have to act like everyone else, do what works for you, take advantage of opportunities that work for you.

We arrived at a pull-out and stopped the bikes to enjoy the magnificent slope of the green mountain sliding down into a mountain pool below us. The cars sped on, eager to make up lost time. You already know this rule: Enjoy what’s around you while you can. The gravel will hit you soon enough.

–(c) 2007 Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved. Image: Quinn McDonald is a writer and speaker and certified creativity coach. See her work at