The first rule of writing is to write. The second, third, and fourth rules are to write. And then there is the writing.
Lately I’ve broken these rules.
With all the traveling lately (for examples, see Science Traveler), I’ve seriously neglected my most important role as a writer. Oh, I’ve written a bit here and a bit there, but my output in the last few weeks has been, in a word, abominable (or in the very least, pathetic). I’ve been on the road, then playing catch-up, then on the road again, then catching up again. Somehow the catching up never quite gets caught up before the next step backward.
Yeah, these are excuses. But that’s all I got.
It happens. Writers sometimes get off their routines, and I’m definitely a slave to routine. When I travel that routine is by necessity un-followable (if un-followable was a word), which is why it’s important to force yourself to write when you can.
I take advantage of long flights or train rides to write (note that this doesn’t work so well on driving trips). I make sure to take a break at some point during each day, often just prior to collapsing at night, to write down my thoughts and a summary of the previous 24 hours. I squeeze in some writing on my phone notepad and send myself emails with reminders and ideas. All of this will be fodder for future books, articles, and blog posts.
What suffers are the ongoing projects. I write non-fiction, so generally I have the table surrounding my laptop strewn with open file folders, books for citing quotes, and various and sundry other reference sources. Trust me, you can’t lug 30 pounds of books and notes on the road. In these cases I envy the fiction writers who can sit at a laptop anywhere and just create new worlds in their heads. That doesn’t works so well with biographies and science writing.
With this limitation in mind I do try to make a daily word count, though severely fewer words than when I’m in my home office. I’ve recently started using Evernote to place sources and citations in the cloud. Here too I’m limited by access to the internet, but it’s one way I’ve found to access materials without having to carry them all with you. I also do a lot of reading (PDFs on the laptop) and storyboarding/organization.
That said, the last few weeks have been way too under-productive. I’m currently hosting family from out of town, which presents its own challenges when it comes to finding time to write. And yet I’m writing now as take a break between events and dinner and everyone enjoys an hour or two off the grid. I imagine this is how mother’s must feel, grasping nap-time as a chance to pound out a few paragraphs before Junior wants his afternoon milk.
And now my laptop is telling me its battery is about to nap, so I’ll end here and dig out my files for the works in progress. Yes, plural.
David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (Fall River Press) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book is about Thomas Edison, due in Barnes and Noble stores in 2016.