A blog about writing and self publishing

Subway Scribbles

Photo by Liam Burnett-Blue on Unsplash

By Lydia Laceby

“You have to make the time.”

It’s something you hear writers utter when asked how they find the time to write a novel. Whether it’s at midnight with a glass of wine when the kids are in bed, or in the wee hours of the morning before they’re up demanding breakfast; whether you take one evening a week away from your spouse or one morning on a weekend and ignore the housework. You have to make the time. Your novel will never get written otherwise.

And in my experience, I have found this to be true.

You can always find thousands of reasons not to write, particularly in this age of social media. But you have to sacrifice something. Sleep, cleaning, sex, cooking, exercising, spending time with your mother — something has to give.

Redesigning Rose - Cover ImageFor me, that sacrifice is in the form of spending less time with my family and friends and financial compensation from my day job when I negotiated one day off a week. But I now have Fridays to write and usually manage to cram some scribbles in on the weekend before my morning-averse husband wakes. This, however, immediately became clear wasn’t enough time. Writing Friday became Email Catch-Up and Marketing Friday, and after I accomplished a week’s worth of emails and social media I tackled some chores – the stores are less busy so I save hours – and suddenly it was dinner time. I’d begun to lose entire writing days and sought out other places to scrape together a few more minutes to write.

So I stopped reading.

Before you screech in protest, I haven’t given it up completely. That would be madness. But my main reading location – my subway commute – evaporated one morning when I opened my iPad after taking my seat and wondered before pushing the button on my e-reader: Could I do it? Here? Could I write amidst the throngs of pushing and shoving and sometimes shouting people at 7:30 am? My stop was the second from the top of the line, and I always secured a seat if I took an extra five to ten minutes and went one stop north first. All I had to do was try.

So I did.

And it worked. It worked so well that at least half of my last edit was done on the subway. People are always so astounded when I tell them this. But I see people doing all sorts of things down there (when I’m not peering into a book or rearranging words, I’m studying the good, the bad, and the you-really-don’t-want-to-know). So it is possible, and I’m often surprised by just how much I can accomplish.

During my forty minute subway ride, I can edit at least three-to-five full pages, depending on how heavy an edit is required, and can pound out about 700-800 fresh words. The last amazes me. I can’t even do the latter at home in an hour. But I chalk it up to the lack of distractions. The Internet isn’t accessible. I can’t even get a phone call. And for this, I rejoice as I sit down and get it done. I even arrive at work with a clear head and bundles of energy. It’s a win-win all around. The only tricky part is finding a seat on my return journey. Standing and editing without falling can be problematic.

And when the subway is delayed? I’m the only one who doesn’t complain.

Lydia Author PhotoLYDIA LACEBY is a co-founder of the fiction book blog, Novel Escapes. Since 2009, she has read and reviewed as much women’s fiction as humanly possible while designing, organizing and expanding the blog from two reviewers to seven.

In her spare time, she knits cute baby hats, would pick cheese over chocolate, and longs for the days she was able to cheat on her allergy free diet. Lydia began her career writing a soap opera at the tender age of thirteen. It never aired. Redesigning Rose is her first novel.

10 Responses to “Subway Scribbles”

  1. philosophermouseofthehedge

    Old saying that stuff needing to be done always expands or contracts according to amount of time available.
    Escaping the internet and phone seems to be the best plan.
    Using steady constant noise droning (one that has no emotional/personal connection to you) is a great idea.

  2. lydialaceby

    Reblogged this on Lydia Laceby and commented:
    What do you sacrifice for your writing? Today I stopped by Kobo Writing Life to chat about how I’ve begun taking my writing deep underground.

  3. Ali Isaac

    I gave up tv. I dont watch. Ever. Except for GOT. And I dont miss it at all. But I couldn’t give up reading…

  4. Vinci

    When I was in college, I discovered the advantages of taking public transportation. I could do my homework while I was on the train going home. Now I have learned how to get work done on buses, subways and trains. I never complain when there are delays either.

  5. M T McGuire

    I am so with you about trains! Years ago when I lived in London I used to do stand up. I wrote all my stuff on the tube (UK Subway) on the way to work. When I moved out of London, got married and got a real job I used to gave to drive about 1,000 miles a week. I’d speak into a dictaphone while I was driving and type it all up when I got home.

    Now that I am Mumzilla to a small but very lively boy I have to really fight for writing time but what I am amazed by is how soon the odd snatched hour adds up. I write terribly slowly I’ve only written four books in six years but it’s over 500,000 words which isn’t bad at all. And if I’d given up, they’d never have happened at all. Like you say, it’s just a case of making a time and sticking to it.




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