Race Track or Freeway
Posted on 01/13/2021 by Magdel Roets
Magdel Roets: Writer of Christian Fiction
Author Masterminds Member
The driver pulls the visor over his eyes. Secured in his seat, he clicks the car into gear, revs a bit, and waits for the signal lights. At the right moment, he releases the clutch and sends a blue smoke up behind his tyres while the engine of his Formula One car screams in its attempt to stay in first place. Leaving the other racers behind, he can go ahead full speed along the open track. There is nothing in his way to stop or distract him.
The writer flips open his laptop, presses the power button, and wipes his reading glasses while waiting for the computer to start up. As soon as the right icon appears, he clicks on Word, types a heading, clicks save, and flexes his fingers. A clear page opens in front of him, nothing in his way, nothing to distract him, full speed ahead, typing his thoughts as fast as his fingers can go.
Lap after lap, the racing driver stays in front. Slowly he is closing in on the slowest cars on the track. Just as he is about to pass, the flag waves him in for a pit stop. No use to get annoyed; he has to obey. What a waste of time, as if the scheduled pit stops are not enough. Seconds later, he is back on the track, gaining in on the tail of the string of cars in front of him.
The pages fly under the writer’s hands; the introduction is finished, and the story’s body is starting to show direction. The silence is shattered by a commotion outside, stopping the writer’s fingers in mid-air. The sound of metal being dragged over concrete is the cue: the dog has not been fed. This is an unscheduled pit stop for the writer.
On the race track, things go smoothly for many laps. The driver passes many tail-riders, carefully avoiding collisions, making sure he does not get run off the track by competitors for the title. He drives like a gentleman, but one who is set on winning.
The dog fed, water bowl filled, the writer is back tapping the keys on the keyboard, and the story’s characters get to do their thing.
And then it happens. The car in fifth position takes a turn too wide, taps the front wheel of the car in front of him, and both spin off the track, colliding, flipping over, and sowing metal and plastic all over the track. Yellow flags come out, then the safety car is sent in, and traffic slows like on the freeway during peak hour.
For the writer, the scenario equals something like a neighbour ringing the doorbell. The writer opens the door and realises this is not a quick hello, borrow me a cup of sugar and dashing home. The neighbour needs a shoulder to cry on for some yet unknown reason. The characters in the computer are frozen in place until the neighbour has had his say. By then, the writer is distracted, his attention splintered and split between the neighbour’s problems, the dog needing to be taken for a walk, the mail to be collected (this week), and pangs of hunger-striking at this very inconvenient moment. This kind of writing is like driving on the freeway at peak hour: go at fifteen miles an hour, stop, go, slowly, stop, mile after mile, breathing exhaust fumes all the way.
While waiting for the debris on the race track to be cleared, the racing driver’s thoughts wander to the four hundred mile stretch of open road – with hardly any traffic – from Botswana to Namibia. No competitors, no yellow flags, no unscheduled pit stops, just open road beckoning, and the writer dreams of quiet nights to go on typing until the sun comes up. If only the driver could race along the four hundred mile road at full speed, and the writer could write only when everyone is asleep. But life happens, and too often we have to snail along in peak hour traffic until we reach our off-ramp where it might or might not get better.
From the reader’s point of view, it is pretty much the same. The difference is our reason for reading.
My sis-in-law sits down at a table with her book, pen in hand, making notes as she reads. With a smile on her lips and a nodding head, she underlines a paragraph. This is good, she is thinking. Five pages on, and a frown appears between her eye brows. No, I absolutely disagree, she says out loud. Going back to reread the paragraph, she frowns harder and makes notes in the margin. I’ll have to have a word with the writer about this, she decides. So she putters forth on the freeway, reading, stopping, rereading, making progress at the speed of a tortoise at its best. At the end of the book, she has accumulated enough information to win any debate on the book’s topic and has acquired knowledge she stores for future use. Her reason for reading is always to learn something or get revelation on an issue that has been a puzzle.
Her best friend, my biggest fan, prefers Formula One reading, but longing for the four hundred mile stretch so she can finish her book in one sitting, going fast and unhindered. I often ask her how she liked the latest book. Thinking hard, she shrugs and says it made her relax, and that is all that matters. I ask her what she takes home from reading my books, and she replies: “Nothing. I feel good, uplifted, relieved from stress. What more could you want from reading a book?” Two opposite ways of reading; two opposite reasons for reading, both enjoying reading, one as much as the other.
My wish for all my readers and fans is that they enjoy reading my books. Whatever their reason, whatever their preferred way of reading, as long as they get what they want and have a most pleasant experience doing it, I’m as happy as a bookaholic in a book warehouse. To give my readers what they want, I’ll keep on writing, whether on the race track or the freeway, as long as I get there and send the next book to the printers.
Race Track or Freeway was first published with Readers and Writers Book Club: https://readersandwritersbookclub.com.