Writing hack #2: jump in my car

I’ve previously blogged about a hack I’ve employed to keep the momentum going in my writing while I’m balancing it with my business.  That writing hack focussed on getting back the time I lose every time I have to travel to the city for meetings – and how I write on the train.

It’s worked so well for me that I’ve been scouring my calendar for other opportunities to reclaim my time.

And I’ve found one.

Writing hack #2: using my time while driving

Now before you start firing off comments talking about safety while behind the wheel, let me clarify a few things first to assuage your concerns:

  • I’m not balancing my laptop on my knees while I write, or jotting notes on paper. Both hands are on the wheel at all times.
  • The majority of the value I get from my reclaimed time is from sitting in traffic or at traffic lights.

Sometimes I can’t take the train – my clients or workshops are in places that require a car.  Most of the time those trips run smoothly, and I’m at that meeting or workshop in no time. But at other times the traffic conspires against me, is difficult or unexpected hazards get in the way.  So when I’m driving to these appointments I can sometimes lose a lot of time on the road, but I’ve found a way to make the most of this time, rather than have my blood pressure percolate or stare blankly out the window waiting for the cars around me to move.

This is what I do, depending on the difficulty of the drive.:

  • I dictate. With my iPhone voice recorder running, I dictate my current WIP.  I talk through character notes or dialogue signatures.  I investigate plot holes out loud.  And I dictate chapter after chapter of my WIP. This works for me, especially on longer trips on the open road or the freeway. I am a “talk-out-loud” kind of guy, so I’m able to hear my ideas out loud and run with them.  This also has a huge added bonus. When I’m transcribing my recordings (not when I’m driving, mind you), I’m actually not writing first draft any more. I’m writing first-and-a-half draft because I’m editing as I listen back. It takes a few listens to get used to the sound of your own voice – and I do sometimes cringe at what sounded like gold in my head was more fake jewellery in the real world.  But I have something to work with; some raw clay I can mould.
  • I learn. Rather than listening to the inane blather from the radio, I settle in for a couple of episodes of my favourite writing podcasts.  At the moment I’m listening to Novel Marketing with James L Rubart.
  • I read (well, I listen). Again, rather than getting my 3,000th airing of The Eagles’ The Long Run, I listen to eBooks.  I always vary the authors I listen to in the car, to give myself a spread of inspiration, but I do find it fascinating to hear rather than read stories.  You get a different insight into the spoken word, and it sometimes gives you a window into characterisation or tension.

So that’s me in the car.  Safe, but productive, and I’ve found a way to reclaim another part of my day that would otherwise be sucked away.

Does it work? I had a client meeting the next town over and my ninety-minute drive was now a creative session. I finished the storyboard for a whole novel.

It works for me. What about you?

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