Writing Exercises: "Give Yourself Mental Space for Driving-Time Writing"


Let's continue the topic of writing during your driving time as it is a skill that definitely needs to be added to your arsenal of tools for writing. The first thing to tackle in making your travel time productive is addressing the distractions and how you may even use them to your advantage.

Do touch that dial

In our modern era of technology, it is rare for people to be listening to the radio in their car unless its satellite radio. So whether you are listening to your talk radio or a podcast, you may want to substitute your morning news bulletin with some non-distracting music or even some good-quality silence. Boring, I know, but if music or radio keeps you from your creative process, it is something to consider.

Put Your Cellphone in the Back Seat

This probably sound scandalous but since you're headed to a destination that will be requiring you to answer noisy phones and make calls all day, you may as well give yourself the time to write. Although work is important, your reporting in the morning anyway and you should remember that you also have a commitment to your writing career.

Record Your Drive-Time Genius

If putting the cellphone in the back seat is absolutely not an option, then put it to work. I say this because nowadays people do not typically have reccording devices that are not their cellphones. In this case, get a reccording app on your phone (there are cheap free ones if your phone does not have one already) and think out loud. It may feel silly at first because you may feel that people are watching you talk to yourself in your car but, hey, you can always claim "hands free!"

The Gridlock Safari

We all look around at other people in their cars when we're at a stop light, curiously looking at what they're doing and what they're looking at. Or at least, I do and I am not ashamed. You may see a creepy driver who's peering into other people's cars with uncomfortable interest but I see writing prompts. Who is the woman in the black jacket talking to her daughter? Why do they look so miserable? Is it because they're going to school?

I really like to invent little backstories for other drivers and you'd be surprised what characters this little activity may inspire. Treat your fellow drivers as writing prompts and have fun with it. Pick a target and start inventing!

Look Left. Look Right: Here's Your Next Great Character

Let's expand this topic a tad because its really a fun tool to use. We've already established that we can give other drivers back stories, now we can use their car, or any car, as props to add to those characters. Have you ever seen those funny custom license plates on cars? Recently I saw one that was: "HOWIROL." Although these plates we see are sometimes a little on the nose, you have to admit they are full of personality, personality that will make your creative brain wonder.

Let's take "HOWIROL" for example, this plate was on the back of a Chevy Malibu. There's nothing wrong with this kind of car but in my head, it just did not seem cool enough to be sporting this plate. As I think this, driving along I-10 East, I see a bumble bee yellow Nissan Z roll by and decide that the character I am playing with has a bright yellow Nissan Z that sports the license plate: "HOWIROL." There are a million and one ways you can play this game so you get the idea.

Come on Baby Drive My Car

Let's keep expanding this game a bit more. Like in my previous example, my character went from owning a Chevy Malibu to owning a Nissan Z, which is a bit of an upgrade. Like in any movie, show or book, a car is perhaps the most materialistic object any person can have that defines class. Before the scandalous gasps occur, you can't not somehow comment on class in the United States so let's just not go there.

Defining class through a character's possessions, such as a car, can be a great way to go ahead and start a game plan for who a character is in society and what stakes may apply to their place in it. Materialism does not define a character but it can give you a foot in the door in terms of the character's environment.

All in all, this is a great game to play while you're driving or traveling on your way to work. Play around with the mobile toolbox around you and start brainstorming. In doing this however, travel and drive safe! Don't let your writing get you into that nasty fender-bender no one wants to get in.

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