On the Road to Productive Writing

Get out of your comfy chair and take your writing on the road

You finally created your dream writing space. You have an ergonomic chair, sturdy desk, view overlooking the wonders of nature, reference and inspirational books all around. Maybe there’s a lit candle or two, music humming softly, total peace and serenity. It’s just you and your muse and the perfect place to bring the two together.

Your fingers hover over the keyboard. You smile at the perfect symmetry of it all.

Then…nothing.

Not one true sentence, as Papa Hemingway would say. Not even a word.

Or maybe you manage to hammer out several pages, only to look back and hit the delete key. How can this be? You blow out the candles, turn off the music and chalk it up to a bad day. Things will be better tomorrow. Except the next day, it’s more of the same.

Sounds like fiction? Sadly, it isn’t. I’ve seen it happen to a lot of writers, some who struggled, achieved success, and rewarded themselves with their writing man/woman cave. And then the stories stopped. It’s happened to me. It happened to Stephen King, who for a spell avoided his eye-popping study and wrote in a kitchen pantry on a fold up table and chair.

My suggestion? Become a Road Writer. It’s kinda like a Road Warrior, but with much less violence, dust and car exhaust. Oh, and no Mel Gibson.

Grab your laptop or legal pad or Etch A Sketch and find a busy public place. Put yourself on display, right in the thick of things. You are now a writing exhibitionist. Take a deep breath, and write.

Believe it or not, the noisier it is, the better. I know it sounds crazy, but the louder your surroundings get, the more everything morphs into white noise, a hum of easy to ignore static. Because there’s so much going on, your brain can’t fixate on any one thing as way of distraction, so it simply tunes it all out.

Think of lying on a bed of nails. If it were just a few nails, they’d pierce right through your skin. It’s the equivalent of how a nearby conversation or two would grab your attention. But put a whole bunch together and you can rest without the need for a tetanus shot. The nails now prop you up, just as the noise will support your writing output.

Go out and experiment with different locations. You could be the cliché and settle into a Starbucks, looking over at the other writers loitering about and wondering just what they’re working on. If coffee isn’t your thing, try a bar. Or a McDonald’s. Or the waiting room of a car dealership. Wherever there’s a chair, a place to rest your writing implement and lots of people, works.

My single most productive day of writing happened in the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. I had a five-hour layover. I hate flying, so I needed to take my mind off my impending doom…I mean flight. The terminal was packed. Announcements blared from the speakers above my head constantly. Thousands of people passed by me, talking, laughing, some yelling at their kids to pipe keep up. I sighed, thinking my trying to write was going to be an exercise in futility. In the midst of all that insanity, I wrote almost 15,000 words. I’d never written 5,000 in a day to that point. It proved to me the power of the Road Writer.

Here’s another good thing about writing on the road. Sure, everywhere has Wifi, but it’s never secure. Bad things can happen if you connect to it. So don’t. That prevents you from logging on to Facebook or Twitter, checking email, shopping or reading blogs. They’re all huge time sucks when you really should be writing. Pack a mini dictionary and thesaurus for when you’re stuck on a word. Embrace the old school of the printed word.

Practice now and the next time you have to take a business trip or vacation, you’ll be comfortable with the process. You may even find that you have better output when the rubber meets the road.