Writing Where You Can

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 cafĂ© 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I wrote an unpublished technical book for two years on the road in every spare moment I had between flights/trains.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.