Leave Space to Follow an Impulse

Reserve a little time for spontaneity.

One of the all-time best improvements to luggage is that extra compartment out front. If you pack too tightly, have to add a last-minute item, or just need to get something fast, the zippered pocket is your salvation.

When authors pack up and hit the road, the inclination is to pack – suitcase and brain – the way a general maps a battle. Plan, practice, penetrate. Maximize the time and leave little to chance. And no freelancing.

I learned today you need an extra compartment out front, a place in your noggin that lets you entertain the idea of an extra stop. En route to a weekend of events in Charleston, S.C., I took a lunch break in Florence.

Hungry and sick of driving, I wanted to get to the restaurant identified by Google, and then get back on the road. As I glanced left, however, I noticed a palace of a building that turned out to be, according to the sign, a public library.

I kept going, but the image of the building returned throughout lunch. A quick search revealed this was the Doctors Bruce & Lee Foundation Library. I called and got Margaret at the Reference Desk. I explained I once worked for a South Carolina newspaper, had written two novels, and was wondering if I could come by and donate a copy of Bella and Bootlicker.

Reference Manager Aubrey B. Carroll accepts donated copies of Bella and Bootlicker.

Affirmative. I went back and wound up having a nice chat with Margaret’s boss, Reference Manager Aubrey B. Carroll. Mr. Carroll gladly accepted the books, posed for a photo, and said he’d add them to the collection.

You’ll recall the usual luggage metaphor advises to write as tightly as you pack, with no clothes hanging out the sides. (Or excess verbiage clogging the pages). This one’s a little different. It’s about leaving space to follow an impulse. I recommend you do just that.

What’s the last spontaneous thing you did on an author road trip?

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6 Comments so far »

  1. Jane Bozman said,

    Wrote on December 7, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

    While sitting in the dentist chair earlier this week, the dentist ticked off a long, expensive list of work that needs to be done.
    I told her I have no problem with that, but she needs to buy a copy of the book if she wants me to have enough money for all that work.
    To my surprise she jumped at the chance, used her office computer to search for the book online (I was having trouble talking at the time, seeing as my mouth was completely numb! I could not form the letter P so the title came out as Clutching Oochie!).
    The dentist was very interested in the topic and took the time to ask questions about the book (mine is a memoir). Overall, it was a very gratifying experience.
    She agreed to buy the book for herself, some relatives, and her therapist. Other members of her staff were listening to our discussion and agreed to buy the book. Not a bad day for Poochie!


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Fantastic story, Jane, thanks for sharing! Opportunity strikes in the most amazing places…


  2. Jenny Milchman said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2012 @ 1:40 am

    So glad you got to do that! South Carolina libraries are some of the best I’ve seen. It’s such a juggle between booking events and leaving time for the impromptu moments you describe. Wonderful things happen both ways. Glad it was such a fun, if exhausting, trip.


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks, Jenny; my trip was just a taste of the journey you’re about to take on with Cover of Snow. I hope everyone will take a second to read how it all came about: http://www.jennymilchman.com/jenny


  3. Johanna said,

    Wrote on December 14, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

    Yes, the space can be just as important as the jigsaw fitting together of everything we think we need.

    Glad you made time, and space, for this library on your tour.


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    I’m glad we stopped also, Johanna. Things happen that can change our plans in a moment. Sometimes we should embrace that. Your site is terrific, by the way: http://www.johannagarth.com/


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