Yesterday I made a decision. After getting to a point in a short story where I couldn’t figure out what to write next – I know point B and point D, but point C was eluding me – I decided I needed some proper brainstorm time. I recently heard some advice about how the best time to brainstorm is when you’re brain is focused on an activity but said activity is just boring enough that your thoughts are likely to drift. The key is to hit that sweet spot between where you’re focused enough that you aren’t just zoning out, but not so focused that it’s taking up all your attention. Examples include showering (the obvious one), driving with/without music (depends on how much the music grabs your attention), or even perhaps going to the toilet. My problem felt like it needed more than a single trip to the toilet and, as I cycle to work, decided that my morning ride would be the perfect time to nut this problem out. Usually I listen to audiobooks or podcasts as I’m riding the twenty kilometers to or from work; which well and truly takes up my attention in a very enjoyable way. Obviously, that wouldn’t work for my objective and so I kept my headphones in my bag and rode with only the sounds of the animals and the traffic (arguably still animal noises) to listen to.
It worked a treat. I did have to somewhat forcibly keep the problem in my thoughts but by doing so my brain resigned itself to it’s given duty and started to work on various parts of the story. It was interesting how my brain hopped from one part of the story to the next, working away at each section like a rabbit who can’t decided which leaf of kale to eat first so ends up chewing on all of them. While the subconscious part of brain was chewing the metaphorical kale the conscious part was simply trying to keep up and catalogue all the ideas that were coming through to it; keeping the good and discarding the bad. It was great. By the time I was halfway through my ride I already had a number of little ideas for various parts of the story that was sure to keep me writing for the next few days. I couldn’t have been happier – and then I crashed my bike.
Let me back track just a moment and tell you one more detail about this ride. I got rained on. For about ten minutes or so the heavens opened and down came the rain and washed poor Damian out. It wasn’t a big deal, I’ve ridden to work for about four years now and so this has happened countless times, and I was so jazzed about the success of my brainstorm that it didn’t even dampen my mood. What it did dampen however was the inside of my handle bar cover.
I was about ten minutes from work and was riding up a small hill in a fairly secluded section of the bike path. As I was going uphill I lifted myself up out of my seat to pedal harder, putting my weight forward on to the handlebars. As my left leg came down my weight was redistributed to my left arm and the handle bar cover it was holding slipped right off. The handle bar cover hit the ground and I crashed down hard beside it. Unfortunately for my hand, knee, and shoulder the gravel on this section of the bike path was particularly gravelly (see photo above), meaning I fell onto a carpet of rough stones that tore through my skin like it was crate paper. I was ultimately fine, obviously, I’m not writing this from a hospital room or anything like that, but I was banged, bruised and bleeding. My bike was completely fine, so that at least was a small blessing. I rightened both myself and my bike, tenderly climbed back on, and, holding my torn left hand away from the handlebars, rode the rest of the way to work.
I was mostly aware of the graze on my hand but by the time I got to work it was my knee that was leaking blood everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I have some pretty grotesque photos (because that’s the smart thing to do before treating an injury) but won’t share them here for fear of upsetting anyone (available upon request). Luckily, I work at a hospital so it wasn’t to hard to get some bandages and bandaids. Unluckily my wounds were bleeding so much it took quite a while for them to stop so that I could actually apply the bandages and bandaids without them immediately getting soaked through.
What did I do while I waited for the tears in my skin to stop bleeding? I wrote the ideas I gained from my ride down. The number one rule for whenever you get a good idea for your story is WRITE IT DOWN. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of the night, if you’re still wet from just getting out of the shower, if you need to pull over while driving, or if you’re bleeding from multiple points in your body after taking a tumble off your bike. You Write. It. Down.
So, while you could say my brainstorming bike ride had some ups and down (no pun intended…I think), I mark it ultimately as a success, one I intend to repeat (not the falling off my bike part obviously, come on guys). My plan is to forgo the pleasure of an audiobook on the way to work when my brain is awake and alert, but partake of the entertainment on the way home when my brain has clocked off.
Like it has today.