For the last couple of months I’ve been working on The Swan Harp in the car on the way to work. I wasn’t sure how this was going to pan out – I’ve always been an at-the-desk sort of writer. Some time ago I read an article about changing where you write, or even your position, as a way to free your creativity. (The guy who wrote the article was pictured lying on the sofa with his laptop in his lap.) I was skeptical, to say the least.
When David suggested I increase my available writing time by writing on the way in to work in the car (while he drove – I just want to be very clear about that!) I agreed to try it, but I really didn’t think it would be workable. Too many distractions, too short a time, the car is moving, I’d be too aware of my surroundings, blah, blah, blah.
To my surprise, it works, big time. Sheer production is one thing; I’m writing at a pace of 500-800 words per hour as a regular thing. It’s a rare day when I don’t write at least 500 new words. I’ve done that at the desk, but not as regularly. This is every day. I can finish a scene between Thessalon and Echo Bay – about 60 kilometres.
The second thing is that I’m not having any trouble getting into my world. I give myself the twenty-minute span from home down to highway 17 to check out the wildlife and the progress of the bush towards spring and talk to David. Then I get out my laptop, plug it into the charger, and open my draft. I’m deep into the world of my novel almost immediately. When I finish my scene and come back to this world, I have that same coming-up-out-of-deep-water feeling that I do at my desk.
But the truly amazing thing for me is this: it has shaken something loose. My characters are doing things I didn’t expect. My reckless, carefree character is developing compassion and giving my protagonist good advice, and it’s coming straight out of her and the demands of the plot; I didn’t decide she would become this deeper thinker. Plot offshoots are springing up like lilac suckers. I have notes about things I have to weave into the story to lead up to stuff that is happening now, and which needs to happen.
I’m surprised, and also pleased, by this development. I’m thinking I need to do more of this, even if it’s only taking my laptop outside beside the fish pond and writing in my deck chair. Maybe I need to practice coffee-shop writing, or out-in-nature writing, or more travelling-writing. It would be interesting to see what a change of work venue would do for my humour, or my pet-related pieces. I’ve gone from skepticism to advocacy in a matter of weeks.
Routine has its place, but if you’re stuck, or even just short of time, I seriously recommend getting your laptop, or your notebook, out and writing on the way to that day job.