Zen and the Art of Boulevard Cruising

Keep it smooth, keep the speed limit and never take a watch

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: June 19, 2003

Zen and the Art of Boulevard Cruising

As a writer who works from a home office, sometimes I experience what is called writer's block. For me, it?s worse than a block.

It?s like the Great Wall of China.

The good thing about working at home is that commute is short, usually a few steps down the hall, you spend no money on wardrobe, there are no office politics nor a time clock. Your wife or husband is by now convinced that you are either a genius or a complete loser to indulge your grandiose artistic proclivities.

In my case, by the grace of God through incredible circumstances, I earn a good living.

The bad thing about working at home is that you wake up at work, you have no friends at the water cooler, no one thinks you are cute, and you need tremendous self discipline not to nap or get hooked on Novelas. Since you work for yourself, your boss is a jerk and there is nothing you can do about it.

You can?t fire yourself.

After a while, the significant other stops asking you how it?s going. Your effectiveness as a home-based writer is best proven by your ability to prepare lavish low fat meals, keeping clean towels and a tidy house.

I work on many projects:TV treatments, feature screenplays, and a myriad of writing hustles. In these days of reality shows, professional writers need a solid money day job, or you are viewed as a no-life-having, coffee-sipping chooch with a laptop.

When I hit the wall it is imperative to take a mini-vacation, a time out of mind by taking a cruise in the car. Boulevard cruising for the right reasons is a great way for a homeboy or homegirl scribe to gets one's creative juices flowing again.

There are a few rules to cruising that should be followed in order to experience maximum creative effect. First of all, the car must be clean. Driving around for no apparent reason in the middle of the day in a dirty car with bed-head hair and a holy t-shirt makes you look nuts. Second, make sure you bring several CDs that will compliment your mood. Third, make sure that you have no absolute time constraint.

I usually subscribe to the "Where are you going" -- out -- and "When are you coming back?" -- later -- styled itinerary.

The objective of the cruise is to clear your head, change your mind, by changing the scenery. With the right music, the familiar sights and sounds of vibrant urban culture, together with the stealth anonymity of being just another car passing through, can put one in completely different frame of mind, which is open to new creative solutions to sometimes complicated writing problems or even more complicated psychological ones.

Many folks think it is easy to write. The easiest thing in the world is to write a bad screenplay, and conversely the hardest thing to do is to write a good one.

The pressure of doing a national weekly comedic column is arduous as well, because there are only so many stupid things that can happen to a person in his life time before he turns into a Bill O?Riley.

I usually go down the main street all the way into downtown, do a quick tour of the office buildings that I no longer have to work in, then head on back, usually taking a different route. The goal is to keep it all smooth, keep the speed limit, and never take a watch. The objective is not to get somewhere rather to be somewhere in the moment.

It is quite possible that because of the low ride hot rod car culture we hail from that my generation may be the first middle age cruisers the planet has ever known.

That?s not to say that our compesino ancestors didn?t saddle up, grab their guitar and ride off into the back country to bust a cap or fire off a few dozen arrows towards some rabbits, ducks, or wild boars, when their creative juices ran dry.

I finally thought of something to write about and this was it.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist and a screenwriter.

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