The Magic of Elsewhere


Sometimes, I think my writing life echoes the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Would you write it on a train? Would you write it on a plane?

Would you write it in a car? Would you write it near and far?

I can write it here or there. I can write it anywhere!

I’ve written book chapters and short stories just about everywhere. A big chunk of Deadly Curiosities was written on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Most of the time, it’s not nearly that sexy. A lot of times, I can picture the hotel room where I wrote a story or chapter whenever I re-read it.  Which means that a lot of my stuff reminds me of Hampton Inns.

I wrote the short story No Reprieve at my vendor table at last year’s Origins. I wrote my alternative Sherlock Holms story for Baker Street Irregulars (2017) in the Contraflow motel last year in New Orleans. The epically epic, epic fantasy that still can’t be named was written in more motels than I can count, edited in the car on long trips, worked on in airports, on planes, and at picnic tables in state parks, and given a final read through on the beach. If I’d have turned in a physical manuscript, there would have been sand between the sheets of paper.

Writing on the road has good parts and bad parts. Sometimes it’s easier to be creative when you’re not in your usual place or daily routine. Being somewhere new, having a view of the ocean or the mountains or a lake can let your mind rest and wander and come back refreshed. Hotel rooms are quiet (sometimes too quiet) and wifi is lousy, so distractions are at a minimum. Of course, lousy hotel wifi makes research difficult, and since traveling with my laptop messes with my back, moving documents between my laptop and my tablet makes for formatting issues. Planes are tight for writing space, and I’m always afraid the bozo in front of me is going to recline his seat into my lap and mess up my tablet.

On the whole though, writing on the road works pretty well for me. Good thing, or I’d have been screwed on deadlines six ways to Sunday. Maybe it’s a skill born of necessity. I’ve outlined new series either sitting in my motel room or nursing a glass of wine at a quiet table in the back of a hotel bar. I’ve worked out a lot of chapters when I’m driving long stretches of boring highway. Larry and I worked up the book outline for Iron & Blood and Vendetta and the first book in a new series on long car rides back to Pennsylvania. (It’s a good use of 20 hours round-trip in the car.)

Cultivating the ability to write just about anywhere gives me back productive time out of periods that would often be wasted–like sitting in an airport or a car or on a plane. Sometimes being in a strange place jostles me out of being stuck, or gives me fresh new ideas. I’ve found that sometimes a quiet hotel room with no distractions is exactly what I need to be hyper-productive guilt-free, because I’m not ignoring my husband or kids or dogs, since I’d be away from home anyhow.

I guess more to the point, I’m not sure writers ever stop writing. If I’m on vacation and I’m walking around a new city or going to a museum, or taking in the sights, part of my brain is filing interesting things away for future use. If I’m getting in some writing between con panels, I might put to use a nugget I heard earlier in the day. It’s all grist for the mill.

What’s the point? I guess it’s that if you’re feeling pressed for writing time, think about the ‘lost’ hours you spend traveling, waiting in a car, commuting on mass transit and elsewhere, and see if you can figure out a way to reclaim them by writing. Maybe you keep paper with you, or write on your phone or on a smart tablet. It might be difficult to focus at first in strange surroundings, but practice makes perfect. There always seem to be too few hours in a day when it comes to writing, so taking back ‘lost’ time can be one way to fit more words into your day.

I might not like Green Eggs and Ham, but I’ve learned to enjoy writing on the road–and maybe you can, too!

What are your favorite tips for fitting in some extra writing time? I’m always looking for more ways to add hours to the day!

12-book box setModern Magic Front Cover 2Catch me at Confluence in Pittsburgh this coming weekend, and Gencon in Indianapolis the first weekend in August!

And don’t forget about Modern Magic–12 full-length books by 13 awesome dark fantasy authors. Only $1.99 and only for a limited time!


2 comments to The Magic of Elsewhere

  • I want to be Gail when I grow up! I’ve watched her do this, and it’s amazing.

  • I love this strategy, Gail! I definitely get a lot of writing done on my laptop or at a restaurant or elsewhere. (Including the local nerd bar.) Sometimes on planes, too. I can’t stand *not* being able to write, so if I don’t have anything on me for some reason or another, I whip out my phone and start jotting notes. I actually find being at home can get distracting. Go figure. But when I write while on my lunch break at work, the hour just vanishes … 😀