On Writing on the Subway

Sometimes, the best place to write, or at least sketch-write, is on the subway.

It’s a captive place. There’s not much else to do. It’s easy to whip out a notepad and pen and jot down ideas.

Lately, my head has been in a specific place. It’s working out a story.

It’s a depressing story, actually.

The outline I was working on needs a rethink. Some things were right, some things were wrong.

I’ve “seen” some scenes in my mind.

I sketched out one today on the subway. Two notebook pages of dialogue. No real setting, though I know the setting. I can “see” how it works.

There’s some technobabble. But mainly it’s working out a problem the characters face, as they answer the question of what something is.

I like it. I like the feel.

It is, though, depressing in its own way.

The pieces are coming together.

The story I “see” in my mind isn’t dark. The story isn’t tragic. Rather, there’s an undercurrent of sadness to it.

Bad things happened. Really bad things. And bad things will happen.

Yet, I “see” where it’s going. In the end, it’s not depressing at all. Because things will get better.

I like what wrote out today. 🙂

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

3 thoughts on “On Writing on the Subway

  1. Do you ever find yourself getting depressed when you write a story that has “an undercurrent of sadness to it” or that’s just flat out depressing.

  2. Do you ever find yourself getting depressed when you write a story that has “an undercurrent of sadness to it” or that’s just flat out depressing. gfj

  3. I tend to think that a lot of what I write has that “undercurrent of sadness.”

    My stories tend to be about broken people. In “Spindle,” both the Doctor and Plato are broken, albeit in different ways. In “Make-Believe” Gabby is definitely broken. Tev is broken in Ring Around the Sky — he doesn’t want to go home. Kat Mueller is broken in “Performance Appraisal” — she has self-esteem issues.

    There’s no one in this story, at least as I’m “seeing” it at this point, who is broken to quite the extent of writings in the past. But it’s certainly some dark material that I’m working with, even if the story itself isn’t dark.

    Does writing something like that “depress” me? Sometimes.

    I find, at least in terms of writing, that the depressing feelings come before the words go on the page. I have to sort the feelings and events out in my own mind, get inside them, and then they come out. And then, after the words are on the page, the actual text may depress me. But the “putting words on the page” stage? Usually not depressing, because it’s cathartic in some ways, and because I’ve dissociated myself from the feelings in other ways. I stop feeling, and start being. But then I find it difficult to look at my own writing, because it makes me feel again, and it makes me feel down.

    There is another project I’m working on, though it is backburnered at the moment for a few reasons, that is unremittingly depressing. It is a story devoid of hope as the gears of history inexorably grind toward a conclusion that no one can glimpse. It is bleak and it is nihilistic, and the characters are caught in a drama that they think they understand — only they have no idea where time and history will take them. This project actually does depress me.

    I think, someday, I may write something happy. Something with hope. Something with bunnies and balloons and fuzzy kittens. Something that makes people smile. Maybe.

    Until that day, I shall continue to be the cruel and capricious god to the characters I write about and the worlds I explore. :mrgreen:

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