A Thursday Night Adventure

My friend! I know it's late but I have an adventure I want to share with you before I crawl into bed. If I wait until the morning, it just won't carry the same magic that it does now at 2:00 a.m. This is the story of how I met one of my internet heroes, solved a problem, and drove in Manhattan for the first time.

You know I love podcasts. I'm rarely far from my giant Sennheiser headphones with the silver rims - if they're not on my ears, they're at least hanging around my neck. At this point they're just another accessory to my quirkiness. Podcasting is by far my favorite medium because it cultivates an incredible sense of intimacy. When I listen with my headphones on, I'm literally inviting the podcaster to whisper in my ear. There's nothing between the podcaster and me except the little bit of time between when he recorded it and I listen to it. Podcasting is even more intimate than radio because it involves deliberate action; I had to search for it, download it, and load it onto my iPod.

The vast majority of the podcasts I listen to are dedicated to some aspect of the creative process; whether it's a comedian interviewing other comedians about the craft, a knitter talking about his current projects, or a pair of nerdy musicians talking about the things that interest them as they cross the country playing their nerdy music. Most of all, I enjoy in depth discussions about the process itself, and for that I turn to The Accidental Creative podcast with Todd Henry. I've been listening to this podcast since 2007 and it has greatly influenced my love affair with writing.

You probably know I like to write a bit. It's more than a bit, though. I try to write every day, and several days a week I spend at least three hours in front of the computer or notebook, writing and editing. I've been building my habits slowly over time, from 200 words a day to 500, and now on a good day, more than 1000. The hardest part about writing, for me, is energy management. I get home from work and I'm tired. I don't want to work at writing, I want to sit and watch Mythbusters. Mythbusters, though, does not a writer make, and if I want to build my skills, I have to practice. This is where The Accidental Creative comes in.

The practices that Todd Henry has taught me, through my listening to the podcast, have shaped my work as a writer. They have taken me from someone who wrote a couple of times a month to someone who writes at least five days a week. They are driving me to become what I want to be.

But I promised you an adventure, and so far all I've done is babble on about podcasts, my favorite subject. My adventure began just over a week ago, when I saw the following tweet on the @beAccidental Twitter stream: Fantastic street team kickoff call today for AC Book! Want to join the fun? Here's the newly minted Facebook group! Todd has a book launching on July 7. I'm excited about the book and eager to help promote it, and so I joined the street team. I wasn't really sure how much I could help, but thought it would be fun nonetheless. Shortly thereafter, I saw an invitation to attend the book kick-off party in New York City tonight (June 23). "Why not?" I thought. I drive up to New York often enough on the weekends, and I've made the trip on a weekday once before. I'll go. I signed up.

My plan was to drive, which I announced to my friend Peter, who is from Manhattan. He took a look at the map, informed me that there is plenty of street parking on that block after 6:00 p.m., and announced that I should drive into the city. I nodded my head, but inside was thinking that he had lost his. Drive into Manhattan? No thank you. I'd do what I always do when I drive: park in Weehawken, NJ and take the $2.50 Boulevard East bus. It takes longer but it doesn't involve risking my life in the Holland Tunnel.

Back to podcasts for just a tick - the thing is, I feel like the equation between the podcaster and the listener doesn't balance. The podcaster puts so much effort into the show, developing the ideas each week, recording, editing. All the listener does is, well, listen. Some podcasters ask for donations, other ask that I buy the book or tickets to a standup show; but in the end it still never feels like enough to me.

Cut to today at 2:00 p.m. I was planning to leave the office at 3:30, run to the bank, and hit the road for New York. I was clock-watching when an email alert popped up. Ben, the head of the AC street team, posted Uh oh...Todd is delayed in Philly.

Philly? Heck, I'm in Philly and I'm going to New York too. I put up a quick couple of posts. I'm in Philly and planning to come tonight. I could give you a ride if you don't think you'll get out in time. Todd posted back that he had a replacement flight in 20 minutes and he'd be fine. I threw my phone number up just in case.

At 3:00 p.m. my cell phone rang with a strange area code. Guess what? Plane cancelled. I gave Todd a quick set of directions to take the train from the airport to 30th Street Station and ran out of the office to meet him there. While I waited for his train to arrive, I checked Amtrak. The Amtrak Acela could get us there in an hour fifteen. Sold out through the 5:00 o'clock hour.

Friends, travel to New York today was just not supposed to happen. Apparently there were torrential downpours off and on throughout the day, which wreaked havoc with airline flights and the Amtrak signals. President Obama was in town, further delaying air travel. Justin Bieber was launching his signature fragrance in Manhattan (what would a 17 year old boy's fragrance smell like? I shudder to think), causing massive traffic delays.

I met up with Todd and we hopped in the Mustang. Thank goodness I'd gotten rid of my smelly Saturn at Christmas. I'd hate to think about sitting in that mildew-mobile for three hours, which is how long it took us to drive into the Manhattan. INTO Manhattan. You see, even though traffic was free-flowing, we wanted to get Todd into the city as quickly as possible, and I knew the Weehawken to Boulevard East bus was not going to cut it. We had to drive, which meant going through the Holland Tunnel into the city. 8 lanes of traffic dropping down to 2 lanes. We got to Jersey City in record time and then sat for an hour in the queue for the Holland Tunnel.

But you know what, friends? We made it! I dropped Todd off at 7:20 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. event. Peter was right, there was plenty of parking on that block. Todd didn't get a chance to change at the hotel first or get a chance to grab a snack, but we made it to the event on time! (During the drive, the NPR station announced that all Amtrak service between New York and Philly was suspended.)

And here's what's impressive: in spite of having spent the day battling with every form of transportation (plane, train, automobile - all we were missing was a boat), in spite of not having eaten in eight hours, and in spite of having spent the day worried that he might miss out on the biggest day of his professional career, Todd gave a great speech! The crowd was clearly motivated by the ideas he shared with us. He was ready and he was engaged when he needed to be.

You know what? That's what the book is all about - building practices into your daily schedule so that when you need to come through with a creative idea in a pinch, you're ready. You've already done the work. I feel so lucky that I got to see the principles in action!

It was a great event! I got to meet some wonderful people, including Ben from the street team, who had also suffered massive flight delays from Atlanta to make it in. The conversations were excellent and I got the fun of being the rescuer - the girl who got the author there on time. But here's the thing: for all that I've gotten from the podcasts over the last four years, it's not nearly enough.

I need your help. I really want this book to succeed. Hit up the link at the end of this post and take a look at it. I know you, all of you, are creative people and I truly think that you'll find it to be useful. I'm picking up several copies for gifts; one for a work friend who swears she's not creative, even though her ideas have brought a fresh spark to our sales team; one for a creative mentor; one for a friend who secretly wants to write for a living.

I'd really appreciate it if you'd purchase a copy of the book. It'll help me repay Todd for all his advice has done for me. Thanks, friend - and if you ever get stuck at the airport in Philly, give me a call (and pick up an order of crab fries from Chickie's & Pete's).

The book on Amazon: http://amzn.to/lhLhdg