Motorcycle Riding and Creativity

For long-time readers of the blog, you know that I believe Suzie Lightning taught me everything I know about creativity. (Yes, my motorcycle has a name, and it’s from a Warren Zevon song.) So we went off to Tucson this weekend, not on the interstate, but through the heart of the Sonoran Desert. There’s a stretch of about 70 miles where you see the San Tan mountains and then the Catalinas in Tucson,

Rear view mirror gives you a look at the future. From

but between the two points, all we saw were saguaro cactus, mesquite trees, and hawks wheeling in the deep blue bowl of sky as we crossed arroyos. Arroyos are dry river beds that fill up in minutes when it rains, and can lift a big car when only 8 inches deep in water.

The road is two-lane and largely deserted. I stick to the speed limit, because I’m sight-seeing and not in a hurry, and 65-75 is plenty fast for me. But cars appear behind me, fill my rear-view mirror, then explode past me.

When that happens, I back off the throttle, slow down, and move over. If you ride a bike, you know that you stay out of the grease-strip in the  middle of the road, and ride on either side of your lane—the first rider on the left, to protect the space, the second rider two seconds behind on the right, to fill the lane, and the third rider back on the left side.

When a car or pickup comes flying past, I move over in case they cut back too soon, and slow down to give them more space between us. My full-head helmet is expensive—it’s a “single-use helmet,” and I’m not eager to give it the single use I bought it for.

Watching a pickup truck cut back into the lane in front of me, I realized that that motion of slowing down and moving over is a creative tool, too. When I’m dealing with ideas that are approaching fast and need to pass, I let them go. I don’t try to speed up and catch them. Nor do I  try to stop them or teach them a lesson. Ideas are plentiful, and not all alike. The people who participate in my art classes (and some of my business classes, as well) are always worried that each idea may be their last. It’s unlikely. There are a lot of ideas, and a few really good ones. Like the cars that whiz past, I remember the interesting ones, the unusual ones, the ones that remind me of something useful. The rest I just watch as they vanish in the distance.

Seeing a lot of cars, like ideas, allows me to choose what I want to remember and use. And let go of what is commonplace, too fast, or not remarkable. It’s a good idea to let ideas go speeding past. It helps develop discernment.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. Her book, Raw Art Journaling, will be available in July, 2011.