The Best Times and Places to Plan New Writing

When are the best times and where are the best places to plan new writing?

Time is precious.

We all have the same number of grains of sand filtering through the hourglass each day.

Writing time is precious.

We protect and hoard our allotted (and dedicated) time to write.

But we’re all busy.

And if you’re a new and emerging writer, you fit writing into the nooks, crevasses and tiny compartments of time available between the crack of dawn and when you finally feed the door and lock the cat for the night.

So when are the best times and where are the best places to plan new writing?

There is an untapped resource in the mundane ennui of our lives. Times and places where we can let our minds wander through the cereal aisle of our minds and happily browse all the pretty colours.

Remember to carry a pen and notebook so you can write down new ideas, revelations, plots, characters.

The bathroom – Use those quiet minutes to generate new ideas, plots, characters. If you’re constipated, you can always work it out with a pen. Maybe it’s just a guy thing, but seriously, uninterrupted time is precious especially when you have children. 

Washing up – a friend of mine calls it ‘sudspiration.’ Let your subconscious compost the ideas you have. Mull over concepts for plots or allow the characters in a scene to throw around some dialogue.

Have a tea towel handy as you’ll need to dry your hands quickly to take down notes.

Hanging washing on the line – As you hang out the next load on the line, observe how you do it. Is it socks (and do you pair them or leave them on the line randomly) and underwear first? Or whatever comes to hand? Do you use the same coloured pegs for each garment or you don’t care?

Now think about how you approach a new plot. Is it similar to your washing line approach?

Use the time to plan a new plot; with each garment think of it as the next scene in your story.

In the shower – nothing like a quickie to get your mind turning over. Think about how your character would carry out their ablutions. Maybe he or she uses the face washer only for the face, or they don’t care and use it all over. What kind of shampoo and conditioner would your character use? Would your character have sex in the shower?

There is something refreshing and rejuvenating about water and the process of becoming clean. Visualise the bad ideas washed away to leave the good ideas. If a good idea slips away, hope it gets stuck in the mat of hair clogging the drain.

On the commute to work – regardless of your mode of transportation you can use the time to chunk down the massive sprawling plot into scenes.

This is a little harder if you drive to work but perhaps a dictaphone (what am I saying? Every phone these days as the ability to record audio. Use your phone instead. Forget I said ‘dictaphone’). Or train your brain to remember all the minute details (we really should exercise the ol’ grey matter a little more by developing our memory).

During the commercial break – how many plot ideas can you generate in the ad break? Make a challenge of it. If you write down 2 ideas in the first ad break, can you double it to 4 in the next?

Taking a walk – stop being sedentary. Stand up out of the chair and take a turn around the block. Get the blood moving through the body. Movement creates momentum and clarity.

Use the time to process a character’s motivation. Imagine, as you walk, the character’s movement through the plot. What is their internal and external motivation?

At any family gathering (or wherever people congregate) – watch people and their mannerisms. Listen to how Great Aunt Ethel speaks about fashion and last week’s Bingo fiasco and watch how she uses gesture and body language. Become an acute observer of human behaviour and language. Can you apply it to a character?

You’ll find your own mundane moments to compost and percolate ideas.

What works best for you?

3 responses to “The Best Times and Places to Plan New Writing

  1. Great ideas, I am lucky enough to have mornings at the moment but I will bare these tips in mind for the future – especially as I often take work home and waking up an hour earlier never worked for me.
    I have carried a notepad and pen with me since 1994 – although now I often use my phone!

  2. I tend to get a lot of ideas in the shower – one character in particular (mentioning no names *Grey O’Donnell*) likes to talk to me in there. I REALLY need to get myself some of these;

    But ideas come from everywhere – especially if you’re not looking for them. The more you try to force them, the more unresponsive they become. Just do your day-to-day things and forget about the need for ideas, and you’ll start finding them everywhere.

  3. I find creating a stimulation vaccumm works, my mind rushes to fill the silence.

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