Note: I’ve decided to change the title of the ongoing posts about my own writing habit. I’m going to switch the name from “Progress Update” to “My Writing Journey.” Instead of a date, the subtitle will relate to the topic of the post.
Last week, I tried writing during a long flight. The trip was unusual because I wasn’t with my family. Flying solo gave me the opportunity to experiment. I learned a couple of interesting things about writing on an airplane.
Writing on a Plane Sucks
No surprise--writing on a plane can be difficult. Everybody knows about the uncomfortable seats. Using a keyboard is awkward because of the limited space. The guy seated next to me was large, and his elbows kept bumping mine because he was also trying to type. The flimsy little folding table gave me a spot for my laptop, but those tables are shaky; every time the person in front of me moved, my keyboard jumped around. In general, the other people can be distracting. If anybody beside or behind me wanted to read what I was typing, they could have, so I was a little self-conscious at times and had trouble focusing.
Writing on a Plane Is Effective--Wah?
On the other hand, while writing on the plane was challenging, it was also worthwhile. In spite of the distractions, I made excellent progress on a couple projects. Something about the environment propelled me.
I think it had to do with the fact that I was stuck in a chair with no way to leave. It reminds me of the authors who have said that the hardest thing for writers is to just sit down or to just lock themselves in a study.
Find an Unusual Place to Write
Being on a plane with a laptop or a notebook is essentially the same. The reason I liked writing on the plane, even though it was uncomfortable, was that it forced me to focus. This is typically the greatest battle faced by writers: we need to just sit down and focus on our craft. Anything that can distract us, will distract us.
I encourage you to try something similar. Even if you aren't going to write on a plane, find a situation that will compel you to focus exclusively on your writing. It can be helpful to do this in a place that's different than your typical environment. Annie Dillard used to write in a tiny cabin in the woods. Some people find focus in a co-working space. I've seen people write very successfully in the library. Every writer is different. Some of us need absolute silence and stillness to focus; others benefit from the stimulation of noise and activity to drive their process. Don't assume until you've tried both.
Try writing someplace new. Experiment. A new writing situation can stimulate your craft. I was surprised to find that writing on the plane was productive, and I'm looking forward to the next opportunity to write in a new environment.