Posted by: Trisha Leigh | March 18, 2011

How Road Trips are Like Stories…Or Something

I am completely exhausted from an almost twelve hour drive from Kansas City, MO to Rapid City, SD, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet.

I started to get a certain feeling as we entered the last 100 miles or so of our trip. It made me antsy, anxious, annoyed, and…gosh, I can’t think of another ‘a’ word, so let’s just leave it at that. My nerves split and frayed, and it didn’t have anything to do with Denise’s four children, who are remarkably good travelers and made me laugh pretty much the whole way here.

The thing is, when I’m on a road trip the last 100 miles feel the longest. I’ve made 3 hour drives to the lake, six hour drives to northeastern Iowa, 8 hour drives to Dallas, and a 16 hour drive to New Orleans. No matter how many hours I’m stuck in that car, it never feels too long until those last 100 miles. Then I just want to get there, just want to be finished even if I’m cranky and tired and smell a little bit.

Some of my poor, travel-addled synapses connected to produce a coherent thought, and I realized planning and executing a trip can be a lot like planning and executing a novel.

First is the excitement of the decision – where your trip will be or that novel idea that sparks something inside you. Then, the planning stage, which can be fun or not, depending on the kind of person you are. Personally, I’m not a planner (or a plotter) and tend to want to jump in without testing the waters. I hop in the car with my GPS and coffee, clothes for three or four days. I start novels without having any idea where I’m going, save a handful of characters and a concept. I like the actual trip – the landmarks, the music, the funny road signs, the glimpses of a world different than mine – and I like to discover all of those things during the writing process as well.

The only parallel I don’t experience is the ending. That final push on the road, I’m dying to get where I’m going, get out of the car, plant my feet back on the ground (or pass out, which is what I’m going to do as soon as I hit publish on this post). The end of a manuscript intimidates me, like I’m afraid to look it right in the eye because of what I might or might not see in its gaze. I haven’t quite figured out that mysterious part of my psyche just yet, that elusive reason I avoid endings.

The only thing I know for sure is that I’m WAY too tired to tackle those deep-seated issues tonight.

What about you? Do you enjoy the planning stages (of writing or travelling)? Are endings your thing, can you not wait to get there, have you been dreaming the destination since you set out? Or is the trip, the ride, the getting there half the fun?

I’m so curious. It’s interesting how people’s mindsets and writing processes can be so different, yet we all make it to our destinations with piles of words that add up to beautiful stories.

Tomorrow, I shall see the faces on the mountain. I know. You’re jealous.

What I’m watching right this second: Top Chef, chosen by my 13yo bunkmate in SD, Julia.



  1. 12 hours? Ugh. No wonder you’re exhausted. My sympathies.

    I’m a pantser as a writer, and a partial-planner as a traveler. I like to know where I’m going to wind up before I get into the car, but I don’t really want every detail of the trip planned. Spontaneity is high on my list of what makes travel fun. 🙂

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