Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Constructive Commute

I've just started a really great job working as a marketing executive for a fabric store. I've always made my own clothes and dabbled in patchwork, embroidery and knitting, and I've just started sequining. I'm learning all about search engine optimisation and the ins and outs of Google, plus I'll be paid to blog and tweet and get up to all sorts of social networking shenanigans once I've got the website whipped into shape.

The downside is the commute: two trains and a bus. Or, if I'm at my boyfriend's, a tram, a train and a bus. That's about three hours a day on public transport. (Even if I could afford a car, I couldn't drive it. I'm twenty-five with a learners' permit!)

My new office, pulling into Flinders Street Station.

Good thing I like to read, huh? The commute itself doesn't bother me at all. I'm going against all the commuters the whole way so I get lots of seats and space to myself. It's an absolutely freezing Melbourne winter and I've got a big white woollen coat and--hello boys--black woollen tights. (They're not as matronly as they sound, and not in the least bit itchy either.) And to make myself even snugglier, I pack a thermos full of coffee. No, Melbourne hasn't run out of espresso. I just balk at paying nearly $5 for a nice big soy latte everyday when I'm trying --trying--to save.

So I'm there in my wool this and that and I've got my coffee and there's not a chromer or loud mobile phone talker in a 10 k radius. I could read a book. In fact, that's what I did do all last week. But this week I took along my notebook and rediscovered the lost art of handwriting. Lost to me, at least. I do scribble notes in my notebook. I'm a list maker and a note taker. Sometimes when I make lists I put on stuff I've already done just so I have the satisfaction of crossing them off straight away. "Oh look, today's jobs are half done already. Go me!" But writing prose by hand. That's something I don't do very often.

This is how I write when I'm on my computer: type type type, backspace backspace, type, highlight earlier text, delete, retype, hit the end key, go up two lines, take out adverb, split long sentence into two, retype dialogue, hit the home key, go down two lines, repeat.

I'm all over the place. I don't often write linearly. The words expand on the page like bread rising. But on paper you've got to write more or less linearly, and then there are all your dull, inane sentences inscribed for as long as you let that notebook exist, for anyone to see, and not a delete button in sight. The best bloody thing about computers is you can fiddle with a sentence all day until it's perfect and then pretend it came out that way in the first place.

But I'm not going to be precious about it. I'm going to have a constructive commute and do all those things like plotting and thinking about character and setting and whatnot that I sometimes neglect when I open Word and just start typing. I will write linearly and not scribble. Try not to scribble, at least.


  1. I've stopped bringing a book when I commute for the same reason. It's amazing how much brainstorming and free-writing I can get done when I'm not sitting in front of my computer. It's almost like writing existed before computers were invented. :-)

  2. Years ago, I lived in NYC for six months. I use to LOVE reading on the trains. Except a couple of times I got so in to my book that I missed my stop.

  3. I handwrite all the time. I find it soothing - especially when I use one of my graph paper notebooks with the little boxes. Then you can write precisely, neatly, in-the-lines on all four sides. Obsessive, much? Anyway, I often write blog posts in a notebook first and then type them up later. I always end up revising while I'm doing it, but it seems much easier to do that in two different mediums.

    And then there's letter writing, which I used to be fabulous at, but now do very rarely. My grandmother gets most of those letters!

  4. Sounds a good use of your commute time and nice that you' re not crammed on to a train with thousands of others.

    The new job sounds great too, congratulations.

  5. Anna=--LOL, surely not! Writing before computers?

    Juju--I've become an expert at using my periphery vision. I can even read and walk!

    Celia--That's a good point, anything you write does get revised twice.

    Alexa--thank you! It's very nice not to be crammed in, especially considering all the problems Melbs is having right now.

  6. I can't imagine that much time commuting! My walk to work is only 45 minutes - 5 minutes by car. Love small cities :)

  7. Before I started my current job I was doing an hour and a half commute each way, and that was my reading time, except for when I happened to be on the train with people I knew. These days my commute time has halved, and my reading has suffered a bit, but still, there's no way you could convince me to do that drive everyday.

  8. I love that I'm not the only sane person in her twenties who doesn't drive. But yes, long commutes kind of suck.
    "Sometimes when I make lists I put on stuff I've already done just so I have the satisfaction of crossing them off straight away." <-- I DO THIS TOO!

  9. Yay! I don't drive either. I don't even have a learner's permit. (I actually paid for my partner's driving lessons and bought a car so that I can get driven around places, but I know better than to put myself in charge of a vehicle.) So, I love my commute for all the reading I get to do, but now I'm wondering if I should be writing on the journey instead. I might try it for a week and see how I get on. Thanks for the inspiration.