Eudora Welty, well-known twentieth century author, likened the writer's proclivity to mesmerization as being akin to traveling with a man like her father. I came across this connection in her autobiography, One Writer's Beginnings (Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1984). Early in the book she described family trips taken when she was a child (she was born in 1909). She wrote:
"When we set out in our five-passenger Oakland touring car on our summer trip to Ohio and West Virginia to visit the two families, my mother was the navigator. She sat at the alert all the way at Daddy's side as he drove, correlating the AAA Blue Book and the speedometer, often with the baby on her lap... Riding behind my father I could see that the road had him by the shoulders, by the hair under his driving cap. It took my mother to make him stop. I inherited his nervous energy in the way I can't stop writing on a story. It makes me understand how Ohio had him around the heart, as West Virginia had my mother. Writers and travelers are mesmerized alike by knowing of their destinations."
Writers and travelers are mesmerized alike... I find this to be true. I have often said that it's as if I have a tiger by the tail (or maybe a tiger in the tank?) and can't let go until I reach a stopping point. Too many times the stopping point is well past a reasonable time, like a driver who won't allow for rest stops. Gotta' keep going while the thoughts are flowing, or the miles are passing--same thing. Don't stop or you'll lose momentum. We dread having to crank that momentum back up again.
It's okay to be mesmerized--if you live in the proverbial writer's tower and don't have other things to do. But being a writer for most of us is only part of our lives. We all have our own "other" pieces of the pie and desire to balance various loves, interests, and responsibilities in a meaningful way. Besides, being mesmerized carries the risk of stranding ourselves from the relationships that are most important to us.
So I ask, how do you break the spell, pull away--and temporarily put a halt to your latest writing trip when it's necessary? How do you map out the route to your writing destination while allowing for all the stops along the way?