Writing on The Go

Last week I had to run an errand for my boss, after which I could go home. I completed the errand and realized that I had 34 minutes before I had to pick up my daughter. That meant 34 minutes of time to do whatever I wanted. If you have kids you know what a big deal this is--34 minutes alone is the equivalent of a long weekend by yourself. At least for me. So I sat in my car trying to decide what to do with my surprise 34 minutes. The answer is obvious--I should write. I briefly considered driving to a nearby coffee shop of some sort but decided instead to just stay in the car. Why waste 10 of those precious minutes going somewhere when I finally have a vehicle with air conditioning? So I parked in the shade but not too close to any trees just in case one might crush my car as trees around here are wont to do. I whipped out my notebook and . . . I couldn't do it. Thirty-four minutes of complete, uninterrupted private time and I couldn't write. I tried not to let that stop me but after struggling through a paragraph I just gave up and went to pick my daughter up early. Heavy sigh.

If you have read any of my past posts you know I have almost zero time to myself and that I write in small 10-30 minute increments where and whenever I can get them. I carry small notebooks with me in my purse for just this reason. When I'm at home, I have the notebook sitting nearby me. As you can see, if I leave my notebook unattended, my resident three year old will claim it for her very own and leave me a treat amongst its pages which I usually just write around. She said that this one is a germ.

I've been "writing around" things ever since I started writing. Writing around my daughter's lovely drawings, writing around my job, around my relationships, writing around my life basically. I've never bought into the whole starving artist thing. I like having a roof over my head thank you very much. I also like to eat. Now that I'm responsible for someone else, it is imperative that I provide these things, not to mention health benefits. So any dreams I may have had of staying home all day long and writing to my heart's content--ain't gonna happen. I think it's to the point now where when I do have quiet time, my pen stalls. I'm in the habit of writing while I'm being distracted by ten or twelve other things. I could probably have banged out a good 500-600 words waiting 34 minutes in line at the post office than in the silence of my air conditioned car. Go figure.

There was a time during the early drafts of Finding Claire Fletcher where it was as if I was writing full time. I worked as a Certified Nurse Assistant in nursing homes. I'd work 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. whenever I could (as opposed to doubles--3 p.m. to 7 a.m.) and I'd get home around 8 a.m. I'd spend a half hour unwinding (taking a shower). Then I'd pop open a bottle of wine, sit down at my desk and write until 5 or 6 at night. I would stop to sleep because I had to in order to function at work at 11 p.m that night. So it continued for many months. In retrospect I think I was in danger of becoming a lush. I was so engrossed in writing that book though it wasn't hard at all to spend all those quiet hours alone in front of my computer or in my chair with a notepad. But that's where I started writing on the fly. A lot of my time as a nurse assistant was spent waiting outside the bathroom door while residents did their business. I'd put scrap paper in my scrub pockets and while I was waiting five, ten, fifteen minutes for them to ring for me, I'd write. I also wrote on my breaks or after I was done with my charts. At home I would type up whatever I had on my scrap paper and be off to the races.

I'm not saying I wouldn't want to write full-time. Like any writer, that is my dream! But right now circumstances in my life are not really conducive to that so I do what I can. What are your writing habits? What kinds of distractions do you have to deal with? If someone came along and said, "You have 34 minutes to write the next scene in your work-in-progress. GO!" could you do it?


  1. I always feel weird when I have free time. I feel like I should be doing something. I often opt for relaxing. I feel cheated if I only write for ten minutes. OMG, I love the germ. Where can I get one? Wine for breakfast...alright! I don't think I've ever done that one...will write weird stuff while under the influence.

    I usually write from 5:30 to 7:00, or a little longer if I can get away with it. During that time I'll be interrupted by hubby coming to door, asking me questions, and talking to me about the news. My stepson will will barge in and tell me about his day and plans for the future. My two dogs will walk in and insist on being petted for two whole hours, which usually involves typing one paragraph, petting, typing another paragraph, petting, etc.

    I love my life, and I would be thrilled to wake up at 8:00 each morning, grab my coffee and write for five uninterrupted hours. However, unless I strike it reach or become super wonderwriter, I'll be keeping the day job.

  2. "So any dreams I may have had of staying home all day long and writing to my heart's content-ain't gunna happen."

    *Sighs* Do I need to get out the bullhorn again, Lisa?

    I understand the frustration, believe me. Can't say I empathize, cuz I don't have two manuscripts being shopped out by an agent! That in itself puts you closer to making words your W-2s.

    I DO know this much. If your manuscipts are as lucid and concise as your posts (i.e. damn well written) it's just a matter of time.

    If you'd like, I'll start Googling the names of some famous authors who USED to say the same things you are saying. :)

    It's going to be so cool to see your name up there, and be able to say, well, yeah, I almost, umm, kinda know her.

    Me? I'm not a fast writer. I would probably have a hard time with your 34 minute test. But hey. Aesop's "Tortoise and Hare" tale is one of my faves.

    Okay. I'm done.

  3. I always take a notebook with me in the car. I'm lucky that I'm able to write while the car is moving (and someone else is driving). Even if it's just to go out for coffee, I can scribble down a note or two about something I want to develop later. I hate losing those fleeting, daydreamy thoughts by not having something to write them down on. :)

  4. I can read in very small increments but I have to write in longer ones, at least 30 minutes. I also can't write at night because I get sleepy then bored. Those are my flaws. :) Loved the post by the way!

  5. Bryce: Touche but I didn't mean for that to come across obnoxious. I wasn't lamenting the fact--I love my life-I was just sayin'. If anything I would hope I show that you CAN pursue your writing dreams with very little time. Also, have you read Nancy's post on Great Expectations . . . Not so Much? Authors don't appear to be rolling in the dough unless they've achieved the bestsellerdom of a Patterson or a Meyer. Again, I'm not complaining. I'm just saying you do what you can with what you've got.

    Laila, L.G. and Libby: thanks for the comments!

  6. Touche back...:)

    I hope you don't think that I thought you thought I thought it was obnoxious at all.

    Hehe. Sometimes I try to be funny and it comes out wrong.


  7. I love that you can write in short, intense bursts. I would fail that 34-minute test because I would waste the first 30 minutes whining about having to write something in 34 minutes. And then spend the last 4 minutes feeling guilty about whining. That's just me. Sigh.

    I hope you know that you're a rock star for completing two novels... and that you're a SUPERHERO for having done that while having a day job! Go you!

  8. Bryce: hah hah, it's fine. No harm, no foul.

    Jennifer: Thank you! That's very sweet and it made my day.

  9. M-----'s germ drawing gave me the giggles! Too cute!

    Well, as you know, I have all the time in the world to write. So when I want to write, I write. If I have a topic, then I have no problem. It's knowing what to write that gives me problems. I imagine you share the same issue as many or even most writers with young families. Ah, I remember those days well, but then again, I wasn't writing then. I'm all ass-backward, aren't I? Anyway, you'll get there, Lisa. I have all the confidence in the world. (See, I told you I would recycle this comment! I'm so lazy, am I not? Ah, now that's my real problem!)


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