Saturday Morning Musing

My absolute least-favorite part of the winter is driving anywhere further than around my town. Normally, driving places and making plans that give me extra time to meander from my starting point to my destination is my favorite thing to do that involves moving. In the winter, though, my favorite activity turns into a morass of idiotic drivers who forget how to drive every year couple with terrible weather conditions that make you curse every moron who thinks they can just drive over ice like it’s pavement. No matter how cautious you are, you always find that one incredibly slick spot of ice and wind up sliding toward the absolute worst part of the road, since it’s the only spot with a ditch while literally every other spot for miles is perfect level ground you could just drive away from. You’ve got a chance to make the right call and avoid it, but sometimes there’s an asshole right behind you who zips past the icy patch, no problem, and is passing you while you slide so you don’t really have a chance to avoid the ditch since you’ve got no space on the road anymore. As you sit in the ditch, watching for a tow, you try to appreciate the fact that at least he didn’t slide into the back of your car since he was way to close to you to stop in time.

Don’t even get me started on trying to drive somewhere for the holidays. Unless you’re actually driving on Christmas day, and only specifically between cities during non-peak driving hours, you’re not getting anywhere quickly. Forget trying to even do any local driving as the holidays approach because all the routes take you past shopping centers (because that’s just how traffic management works: it allows you to go near every important, high-traffic areas in what should be a rapid pace outside of rush-hour) since they’re going to be backed up despite the fact that online shopping is way better than trying to find what you want in a mall. While there are things you can’t always do online, such as supporting your local businesses, those are never the places that get crowded. It is always the shopping centers and malls because apparently everyone, their mother, their grandmother, and every single one of their cousins all have to go to the mall every day to see if the mall kiosks have finally turned into something interesting instead of another cell phone or knickknack/plastic jewelry stand.

Even if you do manage to avoid all the traffic and the peak-driving hours, there’s a good chance your carefully made plans will be completely ruined by the weather since it frequently decides to, out of nowhere, dump a metric ton of snow on your area when you took your eyes off the forecast for one day. Then you’re forced to try to escape before it falls or to wait until it’s over and be forced to drive at the same time as everyone else who decided it was a good idea to wait. No matter which choice you make, it winds up being the wrong one. It’s as true as the fact that buttered toast always falls butter-side down and that cats always land on their feet. An incontrovertible fact of nature. If you leave early, then it sneaks its way in front of you and falls right as you’re hitting the difficult part of your drive. If you leave late, then so does everyone else as your local population decided to be sensible for once and not all try to drive through the snow. Even if you try to outsmart the dichotomy by choosing to stay home instead of drive at all, you choice is still wrong because it suddenly decides that this one storm is the only time it won’t wind up snowing double the predicted amount. It’ll snow a light dusting of stuff that’s quickly swept away by wind or that melts under he suddenly clear sky as the temperatures never quite make it as long as they were predicted to.

One day, when quick, efficient, long-distance public transport is available, most of these problems will be solved. I can guarantee that I’d ride a bullet train if one existed between here and Chicago. I’d hop on that, ship all my gifts to my parent’s house instead of my place, ride down a day early, do my wrapping, and then head home whenever I wanted because there’d be trains every day but Christmas Day. It’d make things so much easier on me and everyone else who was moving between states or who didn’t want to deal with the hassle of driving through bad weather/roads full of morons being morons. Which are always worse than bad weather since they’re also available in “it’s snowing so I’m going to drive so close to you that you won’t be able to see my headlines” and “I’m going to continue to drive at ninety miles per hours despite the fact that I can’t see further than thirty feet ahead of myself at any given time” editions. Truly, they are the worst roadway companions. Especially because they seem to always have those horrible, bright LED or Halogen headlights that are focused up at the cars in front of them instead of down at the road for whatever dumb reason. Pretty much every awful thing other drives can do while traveling the same direction you are will be one of the moronic drivers who forgets how to drive in the winter. It’s so incredibly awful that I forgot how bad it is every year until I experience it again and am reminded of just how much I hate driving long distances during the winter.

There is no world in which the amount of stress you get from driving during winter is worth putting up with if you have literally any other options available to you aside from taking a bus. Which, let me tell you, is another can of worms entirely. A worse can of worms. Thought crowded roads were bad? Try riding a crowded bus down a crowded road while rubbing shoulders with someone who decided deodorant or basic hygiene was something other people did while dealing with people who feel like they have a right to comment on what book you’re reading or how you’re trying to survive the twelves hours of hell it takes to ride two hundred miles. You didn’t think you’d be able to get a direct bus, did you? All of those filled up last Christmas. Of course there’s still a seat available for you somewhere, but it always happens to be on the bus that their breaks down on the highway or that has to stop at two dozen cities or gas stations along the way to your destination, turning a three-hour drive into eleven and a half hours of sitting on seats that were worn out the day they were put in the bus. I used to ride buses from where I went to college back to Chicago for every holiday and, while I like riding the bus and appreciate the need for affordable travel from one place to another that doesn’t involve owning a car, I still hated every single bus ride while I was on it. Maybe if there were trains like any sensible society would have, the buses wouldn’t be so friggin’ awful all the time.

This year, instead of going to visit relatives for the holidays, spend your time and money on buying a new video game or seeing how many single dollar bills you need to burn in order to keep your apartment at a comfortable temperature. You’ll probably enjoy the latter more since at least you’ll be able to sleep in your own bed.

Actually, better yet, buy a house and then make your entire family come visit you for the holidays. Then you can enjoy being around your family but not have to deal with driving during the holidays. Or invent teleportation devices. Really, the only problem is driving. If you can find another good method for spending the holidays with your family, I’d recommend going with that option.

NaNoWriMo Day 24 (11/24)

Thanksgiving  and my cold now appear to be over and I can ago about my business, finally. Time to write up a storm. As soon as I catch a friggin’ Miltank, anyway… Thing won’t freaking show up and its been half an hour! So annoying. At least I’m failing to get some Black Friday shopping deal. I mean, sure, I can’t get what I want, but at least I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) and wait in line for a couple of hours to fail to get what I wanted.

Trying to make the time to write over the holidays has always been a tricky endeavor for me. I try to balance spending time with my family with spending time on a commitment I’ve made to myself. This is further complicated by the fact that I recognize that chatting over dinner isn’t enough face-to-face time with my family and the fact that my family is fairly supportive of my writing. It’s a fine balance to find and, combined with the unfamiliar environment and laptop writing, I wind up being only about half as productive as I normally would be. At the same time, though, I usually come back ready to write and be super productive, giving me a few days of increased productivity. Like I said, it’s a fine balance.

Even if I didn’t do as much this holiday as I usually do, I’ve always enjoyed the act of driving places. Being able to climb into my car and just go has always been reassuring to me. Knowing I’m never stuck where I am and that freedom is only a tank of gas away does a lot to calm a lot of my less conscious anxieties that’ll just build when I’m getting particularly stressed. During the actual drive, once I’m on the highway or interstate, I can just relax and cruise, let my mind wander as the forefront of my mind is occupied by navigating through traffic on the interstates or watching the scenery as I drive the old state routes.

I prefer the state highways when I can take them. I dislike feeling rushed or hurried and taking a state route somewhere feels like the epitome of my “I’ll get there when I get there” attitude. There are some really wonderful hills and almost deserted back-country state routes in Wisconsin. Route 12, once you get past the Wisconsin Dells, is probably my favorite drive. Sprawling vistas, forests blanketing hills, and some beautiful rock striations when they have to cut through the hills rather than of around or over them.

Now that winter is closing it, it’ll be difficult to find a pleasant drive or get anywhere far away without using an interstate. Even through the state routes are still the only real access that a lot of the small towns in rural areas have to the rest of the state, they’re not always well plowed or sanded/salted. With my tiny little 4-door Mazda sedan, a little patch of ice is all it would take to wipe me out. I’ll miss the almost-silent sound of asphalt beneath my tires (as compared to the loud scream of concrete), but I’ve still got some time until the snows start. Maybe I’ll go for a drive tomorrow, when I need a break from writing. There’s a lot of unexplored state and county routes around where I live now.


Daily Prompt

When writing a story, it is important to create conflict for your characters. A story without much conflict wouldn’t be very interesting to readers. There needs to be something going on, something at stake to hold people’s attention. However, as we all know through our own experience, a life full of enough conflict to make an interesting story can be completely exhausting. As a result, you character will probably spend some time trying to find peace. Today, write a scene in which your character either finds some peace or takes refuge in their favorite way of creating inner or outer peace. Try to include some reflect on why they’re trying to find peace or make it harder for them to find peace because the conflict of their life keeps intrude on their quiet place.


Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is one of my favorite “feel good about the world” songs, “Great Big Life” by Kyle Andrews. I enjoy almost all of Kyle Andrew’s music, as a lot of it sounds positive and upbeat, even when dealing with more complicated or negative issues. Another of my favorites by him, “I Don’t Want a Lump of Coal” sounds almost as upbeat as “Great Big Life” but is about being left by your significant other right around Christmas. He does a lot of the more typical love songs, but also songs about heartbreak and he mixes them so it’s not entirely clear which is which until you take the time to really listen. Even then, some of them are entirely up to how you interpret them. He has some albums that stick firmly to the softer rock/alternative genre while some entire albums start to dip into a more electronic or pop sound. He makes for great light listening, perfect for background music to just about anything.


Helpful Tips

If you’re trying to finish your NaNoWriMo project by doing a couple day-long marathons around the holiday, it can be hard to sit in one place for very long and trying to move someplace with a less stagnate environment (like a coffee shop or library) can be distracting given the higher-than-usual number of people out and about. If you’re still determined to try, make sure to break up your writing session with breaks. Write for 45-90 minutes at a time, with a few couple-minute breaks mixed in to prevent you from getting too distracted. Do a little bit of research or look up some music. After your 45-90 minutes is done (and you’ll know its done once you start pulling up Facebook or some other social media), actually get up from your computer and go make a cup of tea. Leave your phone behind and let you mind wander as you wait for the water to boil. If you want a cold beverage, find a window to look out for a bit or have a conversation with someone around your place. Once the tea is make and ready for sipping or the conversation has ended, get back to work. As fun as breaks for facebook or video games can be, you also need a break from your screen and electronics just as much as you need to let your brain rest from writing.