Car Writing

Yes, we Angelenos spend too much time in our cars. I have used my commute to try to learn Mandarin and Portuguese, to devour books-on-tape and New Yorker fiction podcasts, to switch between NPR and shock jock conservative radio, to make up rock songs and sing badly and proudly.

My schedule very rarely involves long stretches of uninterrupted time, and I always make sure to have a notebook wedged into the side of my passenger door next to an umbrella I refuse to use the few times it rains here. This past weekend, I left the batteries of my car on while at the gym, a dual symbol of getting to “that” age when mind and body become sluggish together.

AAA told me that I had a half hour wait, and I decided to go ahead and work on a poem. The first lines came immediately:

The president asked the dictator

to be his wingman on the Ark,

the last of their race in a floating

fortress buoyed by melted icecaps.

The line length is influenced by the width of my small notebook, and I was lucky enough to get a draft written before my tow truck driver came with cables.

I have since edited and worked on the draft of a what I hope is a promising poem “Diplomacy” that explores two former world leaders looking to negotiate their way into young women’s beds after they have lost their status.

At other times, I have tried to use a tape recorder while navigating through traffic, but I get far too distracted to actually write while I drive. I also think that car makers should include a flip-out tray like airliners for laptops as I have also been known to type of few paragraphs of a story while waiting for my daughter to make her way to the front of her school.

Is it just me, or do other writers find it uncomfortable to type with your computer wedged between your stomach and the steering column?

Martin Ott

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Filed under Fiction, Poetry, Writing Tips

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