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Friday, 7 June 2013

Writing on the Road



I used to spend a lot of my time in transit. I haven't done a great deal of commuting recently since my job doesn't give me any hours, but when I was working at the CN Tower from 2009-2011, I spent 4 hours a day commuting to and from work (an average of 2 hours there and 2 hours back). But, the commute (one 30 minute bus ride and two subways) often gave me a chance to write, provided I wasn't having a nap. If I was lucky, I'd get on an older train and snag the single seat behind the driver's cabin. There, I had my own little 3x2 foot writing sanctuary for about 20-30 minutes before I had to get off and get on a second, usually crowded, train. Occasionally, I write in the car if my mom and I are going a significant distance, but this is actually a rare occurrence since I can't seem to do any writing when my mother is around. I have no idea why! So, as a result, much of my writing happens when I'm not at home.
This quirk came in handy in November 2012. That was the month I participated in my first National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I probably spent 5 out of 7 days a week at write-in sessions with my fellow participants. I even attended an overnight writing session (and had to work the next day). The one write-in session I'd looked forward to was the subway write-in. A bunch of NaNoWriMo-ers got together and rode the Yonge-University-Spadina line back and forth for a few hours and wrote. Unfortunately, I'd had to work that day and was unable to attend, but I'm hoping to be able to participate this coming November.

Writing while traveling can be wonderfully inspiring. I sometimes use the time I spend in transit to do some people watching. I get to make up stories about the people around me. The 40-something man in the business suit is married to a faithful wife and having an affair with his secretary. The teenager with the stroller is a single mother looking for a better job to support her 2 month old son. The middle-aged woman reading Stephen King's latest masterpiece is using this time to escape her busy schedule of juggling two jobs, a husband and three kids. I could very well be incredibly off the mark with these three people, but they would make for some excellent characters.

Writing on the road can produce some great ideas for characters and I have found physical descriptions for some of my characters in my Pangaea Trilogy this way. It also gave me something to do on my commute to and from work. The lack of work hours has cut down my commuting time a tremendous amount and thus I don’t get to people watch the way I used to, but maybe once I find myself a better job, I can get back into doing that. As a writer, it’s important to find inspiration where you can, whether it’s going for a hike or riding a local transit bus or train. Inspiration is everywhere; you just have to find it.