You don’t have to be crazy to take a jet engine, put it on a motorcycle — and then ride the thing nearly 200 mph in pursuit of the open-vehicle land speed record. It requires something else entirely. Willful ignorance of consequences, love of beautiful spectacle, addiction to adrenaline — these are perhaps all part of that something else.
The motorcycle world — and the broader world of American culture — lost something unique late last month, with the passing of EJ Potter, The Michigan Madman. Potter was a staple at speedway motorcycle events in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Times just ran a good obituary, here. But there are a number of other resources out there on the web about Potter, including YouTube videos of some of his final runs.
My favorite quote, from his memoir, is probably the following, which I think also sums up novel writing, to me:
“Ignorance is a powerful tool if applied at the right time, even usually surpassing knowledge. Lots of times a guy will jump into a project without knowing how far he is into something way over his head until it’s almost too late to back off. This is a situation that I frequently wake up to in the middle of another adventure.”
EJ Potter, 1941-2012.