Route 66 to Writing Rooms (orig. post Jan 9th)

Route 66 by BradleyGee

Route 66 to Writing Rooms.

I started this week by having a spinal MRI. In order to get this layered X-ray, they slide you into a big white tube, somewhat similar I imagine, to being in a cylindrical coffin. The ceiling is about 4 inches above your head. I’ve had a number of these over the years and initially claustrophobia ruled big time. An MRI doesn’t scare me now. I don’t have the hideous panic of having to claw my way out of the tube. But its taken work. To combat my claustrophobia I started some years ago by never, ever opening my eyes while I was in the tube. To open them gave way to panic. Then, eyes shut, I’d meditate or at least imagine being in a different place. By the ocean or some wide-open space. Anything but an enclosed environment.

This time I put myself in a different place by thinking about a character in ‘Under the Bed’, the novel I’m working on. Instead of focusing on the closeness of the ceiling my character took me to the main thoroughfare of Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1951. Walking up Central Avenue, I was surrounded by flashing neon both sides of the street; motels and all kinds of American Southwest kitsch popular back in the day. Central Avenue was Route 66. It still is Route 66. The cache of going from ‘Chicago to LA’ on a single highway has been lost, but you can still see the remnants of the motels that used to be crowded with travellers looking for somewhere cheap to spend a night. Central Avenue is still thriving in it’s own way, although you might ‘get your kicks on Route 66’ with one of the hookers who wander up and down the strip at night. Some of the motels have been renovated, but most either don’t exist or are in disrepair.

I then followed my character to 1969 Harlem in New York City. There’s a loud drilling noise that accompanies an MRI, which is similar to the opening bars of a Ramones song or a jackhammer. I prefer the Ramones analogy, but it was bizarre to hear that noise and yet I was in a gospel church a couple of blocks off Seventh Avenue up in Harlem. The choir and the congregation were singing ‘Just a Closer Walk with Thee’.
This isn’t the first time I’ve used hospital time to write. I always take a notebook with me wherever I go, but especially to the hospital as wait times are often long. In Radio Echo, my first novel, I decided on one of the main characters fate while I sat shivering in one of those charming little tie gowns they give you that make you look ridiculous with shoes and socks still on, white legs poking out. I sat in a cubicle with the curtains drawn, writing frantically, wanting to get down the plot epiphany before the nurse called my name.

So writing has become a liberation in terms of hospital visits, because now it’s not a waiting room but a writing room. We all know a writer should carry a notebook, jot things down, make notes at every available opportunity. Easier said than done. I’ve picked up the habit by having enforced periods of what would otherwise have been mind numbing boredom. Instead I’m freeing up time to be creative that would have been lost in a frustration of waiting for the doctor or waiting for a friend to arrive or waiting for the car to be repaired.

So now, waiting rooms are not something to be dreaded or avoided. Waiting rooms are writing rooms.


Ged Duncan

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 01:13:39

‘Would you get hip to this kindly tip
And go take that MRI trip
Get your kicks on Route 66’

thanks for the heads up on journeying in the mind and redeeming the time – hope the soundtrack didn’t show up on the scan xx

A.K. Andrew

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 02:37:25

Thanks for the comment Ged. I’m hoping the soundtrack does show up on the MRI. Might make it easier to twist again.


Fri, 06 Jan 2012 04:23:34

Thanks Kathy, It’s a great message that no time is dead time when you can use it to write, or imagine a story.

You’ve reminded me of the concentration it takes to believe that you’re not in a coffin when you’re inside an MRI machine – I had white knuckles clutching the panic button…..


Fri, 06 Jan 2012 04:41:13

Thanks for the comment Rowena. Its easy to forget all the times one could have to write. Yeah – I’ve gripped that button pretty hard myself at times.

tom tom

Mon, 09 Jan 2012 22:58:18

Hospital machinery is sometimes the only way to travel. I wrote significant parts of Under the Singer in my early days of writing, while waiting in X ray departments. Deciding to use my own experiences to fatten out the character of Joseph allowed me to consider the fact that these quiet, slightly detached people looking after me, may well be about to discover I have cancer and it would really screw up their day.
I look forward to the next instalment of your road trip.


Mon, 09 Jan 2012 23:02:33

Thanks Tom. Hospital machinery is a cheap ride in UK at least. Now the US – ah .. a different beast altogether. Theirs is more shiny & expensive.


Mon, 09 Jan 2012 23:26:03

Oklahoma City sure looks pretty… If I don’t have a notebook or pen I use the notes app on my phone. God, I’m so modern it’s frightening.


Thu, 12 Jan 2012 21:01:30

I’m booking an MRI. Thanks for the journey, Kathy.