Thursday, September 3, 2015

You Can't Write a Novel While Driving, but...

Of course you can't write a novel while driving a car! You will get into an accident, endanger the lives of your passengers and the other drivers. But, you can write a novel while taking a walk. And I just proved this is possible.

Yesterday afternoon I went out on my regular exercise walk, which is anything but regular these days due to a severe lack of time. In one pocket I had an old MP4 listening device dating back many years. I was eager to listen to my collection of America, Paul Simon, and Elton John. Perfect music to accompany my walking and a clear sign that I am not as young as I pretend to be.

In my other pocket was my smartphone, a phone I would only use in case of an emergency. But I was confident that I could handle the walk. Come on, guys. I do this exercise walk quite a bit and it would be better defined as a power walk. I walk quickly.

And, I'm a writer. I'm a writer whose mind never stops writing. I write articles, book reviews, travel reports. I have even self-published a novel. (The link to my first novel is in the right column of this page. Go click it right now. I could use another sale). I write all the time. I even write while sleeping. I may be crazy. All writers are crazy.

Wait, I should explain something very important for your understanding of this story. I just got my smartphone six months ago. At her job, my wife's mobile was upgraded to an iPhone 6. We purchased the old iPhone 4 from her organization at a ridiculously cheap price. And suddenly, at the age of 58, I became the last member of our family to join the modern era.

At first I used the smartphone solely as a phone. How dumb was that? And then I started taking pictures. I loved to use my pocket Canon to take pictures during the many trips my wife and I took to Bulgaria (actually, we lived there 2009-2010), but now I had a camera in my hands every minute of the day! It was wonderful! I started taking pictures of everything I saw - my garden, the garbage bin on the street, flowers, rainbows. Okay, not so many flowers - that's something my wife photographs on her iPhone 6.

Okay, back to the story. While taking my power walk yesterday, I was struck by a stroke of genius. (Can you even say that?). A lightning bolt. An epiphany. A revelation. (Okay, you already know that I'm a writer. No need to prove that by my use of synonyms).

As I walked along, I wrote down many notes, some of them ideas for my next novel and some of them more mundane things like what I should tell my wife at the dinner table. And I also wrote the opening to this article.

Here's proof:

The other people walking nearby probably thought I was just sending SMSes. But I wasn't. Because truthfully, I don't know how to do that!

And there's one other thing to say about all of this. My eyesight has gotten steadily worse over the past six months because of my starting at a tiny smartphone. Today, to read the notes I have written on it, I need to take off my multifocals. I've noticed that I also can't see the text on smartphones when they appear in television shows. I have ordered new glasses.

So, the image you should be forming in your mind is that of someone out on an exercise walk; making progress at a steady, fast pace. In one hand I am holding an outdated smartphone, and my other hand is not only tapping away on the small keys (or buttons, or icons, or whatever they are called), but also holding my pair of glasses.

And then, damn, the sun came out. The glare on the screen made it even more of a challenge to write my notes.

And then, another thing. Remember that I am walking, typing feverishly into an iPhone 4.

The battery died and my smartphone went dead.

Originally published on The Huffington Post.


  1. Ellis, you might want to try dictating your notes on your smartphone next time you're walking. It's easier on the eyes and you can watch where you're walking. Keep on trekking... and writing

  2. Enable Siri on your phone and then say "Hey Siri. Then, Please create new note."Then dictate your note. If you try to replay, it / she / he will say it all without pause and won't stop, not even if you shout. She's an insistent narrator.

  3. Its a great start! Get Siri to walk with you -- a companion who will ever obey your commands, unless s/he cannot understand what you're saying, in which case the notes will be no worse than if I tried to do what you did. I am so excited to hear that you had such a nice bright idea to reuse all the stuff you had (old and (sort of)new) with creative efficiency! Next time we can share texts on such novel ideas while out on walks :-)