To many, the lone writer performing his craft on the road is a romantic image. One can visualize them being the sole inhabitant in a smoke-filled room during the early morning hours. There the would-be author is typing furiously and asking frequently for more coffee or alcohol. When the sun finally rises, they nod in appreciation at the large pile of paper produced.
But the reality in the digital age and being on a budget is far different. Space in the coach area on the plane is limited and very tight. The result may be unwanted disruptions or harsh commentary from your neighbors. And there are the challenges of keeping your presence of mind during a period of high turbulence. Trains are about the same. The good news is that you can plug in your computer as the wires dangle across your row occupant’s legs. The trains sway back and forth also making it an obstacle to type reasonably as well as keeping your lunch down. Having a table in first class or the café car is the closest one will get to an ideal environment to compose.
The experience would be pretty much the same whether a laptop or tablet. Wireless connections used to access references may be unreliable or slow.
I wrote an unpublished technical book for two years on the road in every spare moment I had between flights/trains. This included the always crowded airport charging stations, Amtrak first class lounges, and sitting on the carpet next to the rare outlet which loosely held a plug.
It was all an adventure that resulted in dead computers, fragmented writing at times, and a constant sense of fighting the clock.
With fiction writing, I am having more success going old school. A stenographer’s notebook and a pen take up little space regardless of the location. One can started right away at any altitude. There is no need to wait for a computer to boot up. There is no worry about disk failures. There is a stronger sense of accomplishment as the words fly and the pages get filled. Just bring a supply of fresh pens and make sure the notebook doesn’t get harmed or stolen. And the process of digitizing at a later date typically results in a stronger work.
Some of the recent works done this way include “Illuminations of a Lighthouse Keeper” found in In Small Doses 2, part of the “Landing in Nippon” chapter in Olivia Plymouth #4 (Encounter at Tokaido Road) and a yet to be published story.
In the end, we all have to choose a writing approach that works for each of us wherever we are. But sometimes the locality forces the choice on it. In any case, enjoy the process and make friends with your neighbor. After all, they could be a writer too.
You can see from the accompanying image that failure is viewed traditionally as being unsuccessful, unfulfilling, and a lack of completion. It is time of emotional sorrow, of darkness, and of uncertainty. While it can be all that, it doesn’t have to be.
Changing Your Outlook
Instead of the above, have periods in your writing career that it is okay to “fail” on purpose. The focus should be as one childrens’ show once put it — “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” The mindset during this timeframe should be one or more of the following:
- No expectations –What you create is fine. Just focus on generating output. There is lots of time later to let your mind enjoy the opportunity to judge. 🙂
- No timeframes — Work from a mindset of just writing with no deadlines. Enjoy the ride and do not impose the shackles of scarcity on yourself.
- No rules — Follow only minimum rules and guidelines. Encourage the mind to wander into flights of the imagination.
- Take breaks when needed — Periodic breaks can provide insights that may otherwise be overlooked.
- Put it aside — When it is done, put the writing aside. Revisit it after a period of time when you can truly look at it with fresh eyes and an open mind.
- Try something different — Purposely try something different this time with your writing. Perhaps working in a park, creating in another language, and having a character very unlike those you typically do. etc.
- Enjoy the “time off” — Periods like this are rare. So enjoy the dance of those moments.
If you take every work as a teacher and the outcome as a lesson to learn then no matter what happens, it cannot be viewed as a failure. By deliberately choosing times of no ground underneath, then you and your writing will both benefit from the experiences.
Mark’s Twain Autobiography was published after a wait of 100 years. By doing this, he could freely speak his mind and strike vengeance as he saw fit “from the grave.”
A fiction writer may also create but not consciously publish various works during their lifetime for the following reasons:
- A fear of criticism on release.
- The work is incomplete or not satisfactory.
- The work covers a controversial subject.
- A promise to keep family members happy.
- The work is an indictment of a real situation and real names are mentioned or are very thinly veiled.
So a growing “post-bucket” collection may result. But this is accompanied by a set of risks. If this is a digital set, then there is the ongoing concern over a malicious hacker retrieving and publishing it. Or if it is a physical work, there is a need to hide it in a secure or an unobvious place. However, every time that you use the surreptitious repository, there is a good possibility of your “literary stash” being detected.
To relieve the tension, some authors may release a few of these works under pseudonyms. But there is a high risk of doing this in the information age because eventually the truth will come out.
And as a last resort, perhaps never write these stories down. Instead, keep it part of your “mental inventory.” And when you emit your breath, the secret will die quietly with you.
How will you choose to handle this need? The choices are yours alone and need to be made carefully. Good luck with this effort!