Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bicycle Writing

I grew up loving speed. I lived on Air Force bases all of my childhood. My father and I would spend Saturday afternoons sitting at the end of the runways watching the fighter jets land. For me, nothing compared to the speed, power, and thrill of those jets and those afternoons.

I came close to duplicating those afternoons with my Dad when I sped down a hill on my bicycle. I felt I was going so fast that I might take off like the jets I watched. I had to take my feet off the pedals because I couldn’t pump as fast as they were turning. On those downhill flights, I felt a soupcon of fear of crashing, which, of course, only added to the thrill.

One of the best descriptions I’ve ever read about writing is by Donald M. Murray in The Writer magazine (December 2009). He said,

“On a good day, I am the boy on the bicycle wobbling downhill so fast his feet are off the pedals, and he is out of control. That’s how I want to write, with such velocity that my typing is bad, my grammar ain’t, and my spelling is worse. I want to write what I do not know in ways I have not written. I need to speed ahead of the censor and write so velocity causes the accidents of insights and language that make good writing . . . .”

As I read those words, I was immediately transported to memories of headlong bicycle flights down a hill. I knew exactly what he was talking about.

These days, there are no afternoons spent watching jets land and no afternoons spent speeding down a hill on two wheels. I haven’t lost that thrill. Now the same thrill comes to me when I spend time on my computer writing novels, when I shut the editor off in my mind, and just write. I enter the zone where nothing penetrates, where my fingers fly across the keyboard so fast words spill onto the blank page like water from an upturned ewer, and characters urgently whisper in my ear. I feel the thrill of the downhill flight. That’s when writing is exciting and makes the time spent writing so wonderfully thrilling.

I want to spend my life writing “with such velocity that my typing is bad, my grammar ain’t, and my spelling worse.”


  1. Nice blog. I'm facinated by the comparison of riding fast and the way a story takes writers (and readers)down that path.

    I write in the morning and I'm always shocked at how fast the time to quit rolls around. And it's just when I'm deep into the story.

  2. When I first read his quote, it really resonated with me. I love the image of riding so fast you can't keep your feet on the pedal. I get that way when I do the annual WriMo every November. Then, I drop the editor in me and just write - writing so fast my fingers can't keep up with my brain. Love it!