Writing on a plane

writing on a planeCrying babies. Muffled conversations. Shuffling papers. Coughing, sneezing, and all other disturbances that only hundreds of people squished into a small, enclosed space can make.

That is an airplane soundtrack.

It’s a blended hum of life that can either be inspiring or unpleasant to a writer. On the one hand, the intensity of living happening around you can fuel creativity and provide fodder for the most eccentric of characters.

There is nothing more authentic than detailing the observed personality of the lone traveler occupied by a game of Words With Friends or the mother of two attempting to be comfortable with one child restlessly shifting every few seconds and the other perpetually seeking entertainment in the nuisance of her mom (all while the father sleeps in the other row, of course).

On the other hand, the unturned orchestra of human sounds one finds on a plane distracts from a need for intense focus. If you’re writing a term paper, the toddler kicking your seat, the frequent announcements, and chatter of everyone around you can drive you mad. You discover that you have written only one paragraph two hours into your flight, because you can’t tune out the conversation about skiing plans in the row next you.

(Full disclosure: even writing this post on the plane has been difficult.)

People advised me to try and write on the plane, knowing I had two papers due upon my return. Their advice was sympathetic and well intentioned, but unrealistic for me.

Do you remember that photo of my desk from last week’s post? Papers and books were spread over every surface.

That wasn’t a hyperbolic image; it was an authentic portrayal of how I write papers. All of my source material needs to be at hand. Imagine that scene on a plane. Not only would it be unfeasible on the tiny tray tables, but also it would garner me many enemies among my fellow passengers.

Are you one of those lucky few who can write in crowded, noisy locations? Can you write on a plane? If so, please share your tips and tricks in the comments!

I’ve been finding myself on planes a lot lately and I wish I could put it to more productive use.

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