Friday Focus: Writing on the Road
Writing a novel is a time-consuming labour of love.
Over the past year I’ve learnt that the process of writing a novel involves lots of ebbs and flows. To write 80,000 words is a challenge for anyone, and it takes dedication and determination to make it happen – it’s the marathon of writing challenges.
To help facilitate a smooth writing process, most writers I know have a place they like to write. It’s somewhere they can get into the “zone” and focus. George R. R. Martin is famous for his strictly regimented writing environment: he only writes on one computer, using an old MS-DOS based program. Since Martin isn’t keen on writing on the road, it can be challenging for him to get work done whilst travelling – but hey, he’s George R. R. Martin, so he can do what he likes!
For me, however, the road is a gift. Since I work full time alongside my writing at the moment, I’ve had to learn flexibility around how I write, so I’ve found a way to bring my writing “zone” with me wherever I go. I hope that in sharing my experience, I can help you find ways to write more often, too. Here are my chosen tools for writing on the road:
- My laptop. Nothing fancy here, just a laptop with Microsoft Word & some software for editing photos if required for the website.
- A notebook. I always have two notebooks with me: this is the larger one, which I use for plotting/character maps. It means I always have my plot information to hand, and can continue planning work, even if the power runs out. My smaller one holds the key background for the world of the Empire, including detailed histories, and in-depth character work.
- Noise cancelling headphones. This is the most crucial piece of my writing kit, enabling me to focus even in the middle of noisy places. I use Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones – they’re pricey, but do an amazing job of blocking out ambient noise and distractions, allowing me to tune in to my writing. I also use them for the other crucial thing that I use on the road…
- Music. For me, my writing zone isn’t a place, it’s a sound. I listen to music when I’m writing to immerse myself in the environment I’m envisioning. There are songs that have inspired cities, characters, and places for me – sometimes I’ll listen to songs on repeat to really drill into a scene. The only caveat for me is that the music I’m listening to can’t be a distraction – it has to be part of the destination.
So that’s my setup. When I’m in an airport, on a plane, or sitting in a library, I crank my music, tune out the world around me, and focus on writing. This approach has enabled me to keep my momentum going while writing on the road. I know my setup isn’t the answer for everyone, but if you’re travelling a lot whilst writing, I’d encourage you to think of how you can take your writing zone on the road with you.
I’d love to hear more from you about this, too. What’s your writing zone?