Sunday, 23 February 2014

All About The Journey

Image credit: Elliot Brown (via Wikimedia Commons)
Why is it that when you have time to write…you can’t?

I don’t often travel by train, much though I love it. And the idea of two six hour train journeys in rapid succession fulfilled some of my (rather odd) fantasies of being unencumbered. No chores, no distractions. Just time to write.

I got nothing done on the first of these journeys but that was okay. I didn’t have a table seat (though I’d specifically requested one) and in any case there were too many people around having interesting conversations. Some of  them I engaged with; some of them I just listened to, my mind boggling, from behind my paper. (Note to self: always take a broadsheet on the train because no-one can see you listening.) “Deb’s just so two-faced. Even Dad says she’s a bitch. So why does nobody ever listen to me?” Well, I was listening, though I didn’t like to say so.

On the return journey I got my table seat. It wasn’t even crowded. I could spread myself out  bit. This is a writer’s dream world, encapsulated on a Virgin train. I opened up the work In progress, the one that’s been marinating for a month or so and was ripe for revision. Turned to page 1.

Let me tell you something I bet you didn’t know. Northamptonshire’s an interesting place. Pretty wet, like the rest of the country at the moment. But it’s green, too. And a bit of water lying in the fields really shows up the contours of the landscape.

That low sun, too (I was travelling in the late afternoon). It cast just the right sort of shadows, those long low ones. You can see the lumps and bumps in the fields; those are the remains of medieval three field systems. Bet you didn’t know that. It’s an old landscape and for once, from the train, I could see it. And that’s funny - there was a whole field, a huge field, full of caravans. And next to it was a canal basin full of parked narrowboats.

The train followed the canal. Time was too precious to waste as the scenery flashed by. Blink and I’d miss it. I could write when I got bored of the scenery. And if I didn’t get bored I’d write when it got dark.

And so on, and so forth. I didn’t get bored and by the time it got dark (somewhere near Warrington) I was too comfortable to sit up straight.  And anyway, the seat height on these trains is wrong for typing at the table height. Even sliding the mouse around on the table (it stuck, by the way) brought on a tightness in my shoulders which I knew wouldn’t take long to morph into pain.

So I never did get any actual writing done. I just sat back and listened to everyone around me, closed my eyes and did that thing that writers do when they’re doing nothing. I gathered material.

Still, at least I got  blog post out of it….

You’ll find me on Twitter as @JYnovelist, on Facebook, on LinkedIn….


  1. Jennifer, I'm sure lots of writers have had a similar experience - I certainly have. Maybe we're so used to the chores and the interruptions we simply can't write without them?

  2. I wonder if that's true...maybe I should concentrate on thinking about the plots, rather than writing them!

  3. That's amusing, Jennifer. I love trains and always gets lots of writing done with pen and paper. Hope that proves true when I'm going down to London!

  4. Perhaps I should try being a bit more low-tech next time! I'm going down for the RNA summer party so I'll try again then!