Writing on the Run™

The Natural Way to Write Any Time, Any Place

The May ’05 Writer’s Digest magazine named Writing on the Run
as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers.


                                                                                                                                                  Life is Your Page

101 TIPS AND IDEAS for Writing on the Run
By Allen and Linda Anderson

1. I Am a Writer. On a piece of paper or in your journal, write: “I am a writer. I write about _____________. My gift to the world is _____________." When you meet the next three new people and they ask what you do, start by saying, “I am a writer.” This declaration will help you claim your right to be a writer. Publishing, making money, and being recognized are irrelevant. If you write, you are a writer. Tell the world!

2. Make Writing a Priority. After you have claimed being a writer, list in your journal five ways you are going to make writing a priority. You are writer. How will you arrange your time and space so you can write?

3. Schedule Writing Times. Make a list of the writing projects or goals you want to accomplish. Use an appointment book or calendar and make appointments with yourself. Schedule writing into your days and weeks with as much commitment as any appointment you’d make with someone else. Do your best to keep the commitments you make to yourself and to your writing.

4. Overcome Overwhelm. Try breaking big projects into smaller, manageable goals. Set up files for the topics of your writing project, so you can start to accumulate ideas, quotes, and reference material. Keep yourself focused and on-task by sharing your small goals with a writing friend via e-mail or telephone. After you have achieved a smaller goal by the deadline you set, reward yourself!  If you created files for topics by the end of the week, for example, take time out to visit with a friend at your favorite coffee shop and celebrate. You'll keep yourself motivated by rewarding yourself throughout phases of a big project rather than waiting until you've completed it.

5. Writing Your Life Away. Living life IS writing. Life supplies your daily writing material. Write as you go. Keep notes. Observe. File your notes by subject. Watch what life is providing you for writing both your planned and unexpected writing projects.

6. Coauthoring with Your Children. When you tuck your young children into bed, try making up stories for them instead of always reading from other authors’ books. Watch your children’s reactions to these stories and welcome their suggestions for how to make them evolve. Write drafts of these stories and decide if you want to try to get them published as children’s articles or books.

7. Set the Alarm. Wake up earlier each day to do focused writing. As little as 15 minutes each day gives you almost two more hours of writing time each week.

8. 7 Minute Focused Writing Exercise. Is there a central image, metaphor, or analogy with many facets that you could explore? Write the topic you have chosen at the top of a sheet of paper.  Then also write at the top of the paper four strong words that go with this topic. Try to make at least one of your words contrast with the others in tone or focus. Use a timer that doesn't distract you.  Set the timer for seven minutes. Use the four words you have chosen to start or keep writing throughout the seven minutes. A very important aspect of this exercise is -- don't lift you pen off the paper. Write until the timer rings even if you are only writing gibberish. Just keep going until new thoughts come. Now look at what you have written.  Are you surprised by how much and how well you wrote in only seven minutes?

9. Catch Your Dreams on Tape. Keep a tape recorder near your bed to record dreams as they happen during the night or when you first wake up. Often dreams help in developing ideas for articles, stories, and other writing projects.

10. Dreamcatcher Notebook. Have a notepad and pen on your bed stand to jot down notes from dreams and ideas that come to mind first thing upon awakening.

11. Let Your Partner Sleep. Have a small flashlight, penlight, or reading lamp near your bed so you can easily write during the night or early morning without disturbing your sleeping partner.

12. A Question for the Sandman. Prior to going to bed, write a question you have about your writing project. This question may relate to a character, plot point, article theme, or some other creative aspect of your writing. Place the written question under your pillow. This cues your subconscious mind to help you find the answer to your question.

13. Inspire Yourself to Sleep. Each evening before going to sleep, read an inspiring writing quote or passage from an author you enjoy reading and that you respect. Be inspired as you drift into dreamland.

14. Make a Writing Space. Have a home writing office, studio, corner of a room, or bookcase shelf ready for you 24-hours a day. If you can’t sleep and need to write, go there, close the door, and write. There are no rules on the proper times to write. 2:00 a.m. is a good as 7:00 p.m.

15. The Value of Assignments. Take writing workshops and classes that assign homework and provide writing exercises for the students. Do the assignments.

16. Check Out the Quality. There are all sorts of writing classes and workshops. Some are helpful and others may not be as good. Save yourself some time and check with writing friends for their experiences with the instructors and the facilities.

17. Writer's Group Rhythm. Keep writing by join a writers group or create you own. Meet at least two times each month to stay in a rhythm of writing regularly. At your writers’ group, ask others for their ideas on how they make time and space for writing.

18. Online Writing Communities. Join online writing newsletters and chat groups. Ask others how they are managing to find time for writing.

19. Writers Write for Each Other. Subscribe to writing magazines and newsletters. Skim them each month, looking for sage advice from others who are achieving their writing goals.

20. Contest Fever. Enter your article/story/poem/screenplay/stage play into a contest. Contests can be wonderful ways of imposing deadlines on you. And if you win them, you may earn prizes and recognition.

21. Deadlines Make Writing Come Alive. Create deadlines for yourself. Example: “I will have the first draft of my story completed by Saturday.” Or “I will write five pages on Monday and Wednesday of this week.” To make this commitment real, tell a friend.

22. Writing Partners and Dates. Make writing dates with friends. Leave a message that says when and where you’ll meet your friend and for how long the two of you will write. Be sure to allow another 15 minutes for a nice chat after you have written together. Tell your writing partner not to let you know if he or she isn’t coming to the appointment. Your showing up for a specified writing time is what’s important.

23. Procrastination As Your Writing Friend. Use procrastination as a way to write more. Pick a job you REALLY don’t want to do. Since you’re probably not going to do it today anyway, bargain with yourself like this: “I won’t have to clean the den today if I write three pages.”

24. Sunvisor Notes. Leave a notebook and pen tucked into the sun visor or side pocket of your car to jot down notes at stoplights and stop signs.

25. A Tape Recorder as Your Passenger. Keep an audiocassette tape recorder on (or under) your front passenger seat in the car for easy access to record ideas when you can do this safely. Transcribe your ideas into a notebook later. Be sure you keep a cassette tape in the recorder at all times.

26. Writing Road Stories. Get ideas for writing by making a game during drive time. Look at license plates, billboards, and other visuals. Find words that seem to be popping out at you. Talk into your tape recorder or write in a notebook when it’s safe to do so. Use these words and phrases to weave a story. (This is a fun game to play with children on long trips.)

27. Imaginary Friends or Foes. Let your imagination go wild while you drive. Look at the people in the cars ahead of you. Who are they? Create lives for them. Turn them into characters. Give them lines of dialogue to say. Jot notes or record your musings when it’s safe to do so.

28. Let the Universe Support You. Write the main ideas, themes, or questions concerning your current or future writing projects on an index card. While you’re driving, listen to NPR or other talk radio shows to get ideas and answers for articles, characters, and fiction. You’ll be amazed at how much research you can do on the run. It will seem as if the Universe is conspiring to support you in getting your questions answered or offering just the information you need.

29. Listen While You Drive. While on long road trips bring audio-recorded books and listen to your favorite authors. Listen for phrasing, structure, character development, and images that you can adapt for your projects. The best writers are the most prolific readers. They feed their souls with great literature.

30. I'm Not Really Talking to Myself, I'm Writing. Driving back and forth to work each day can bring a lot of quality writing time during heavy traffic days. Use your tape recorder with a lapel mic connection to tell your story or capture ideas for your writing projects.

31. Have Notepad and Pen, Will Write. Carry a notepad in your shirt pocket with ink pen (preferably one that doesn’t bleed) so you can jot down notes during the day while you are at work.

32. Notebooks and Pens Everywhere. Have multiple spiral-bound notebooks. Stick pens inside the spirals. Place these notebooks with pens attached anywhere you might be “stuck” for awhile and definitely in your briefcase, purses, or pockets. Always keep a notebook and pen in the bathroom for shower, bathtub, and toilet “light bulb moments.” In other words, you are a writer; never be caught without your notebook.

33. From Notes to Files. Transfer ideas from notebooks and audiocassette tapes to files according to writing projects. Be like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter. When you look inside the file, you’ll find you have “squirreled away” lots of ideas. Then all you need to do is organize them and fill in the blanks.

34. Micro Recorder for Major Ideas. Carry a micro tape recorder in your pocket or purse to record observations and ideas for writing.

35. Break Writing. Write in your journal or notebook while you take breaks during the workday. Breaks are a great time for 5-minute power writing.

36. Half-'n-Half. Spend half of your lunchtime eating and socializing and the other half writing.

37. Keep the Windows Open. Have a second Windows file open so you can jot down creative writing notes and ideas as you are doing your normal activities on the computer.

38. Drawer and Shelf Writing Desks. Keep your notepad, writing pen, tape recorder, extra audiocassette tapes and batteries in a desk drawer or on a shelf at work for easy access.

39. On the Job Characters. Mentally record characteristics of your coworkers for possible inclusion into your fictional characters. An example might be a phrase or a physical or verbal habit that these people use when they are communicating.

40. Synchronize Your Day. Before starting your work for the day, write a question about plot or character or an article idea. See if answers come your way during your regular workday. This information, or sign, is called a  "waking dream” or synchronicity.

41. 7 Minutes to Spare. Do 7-minute focused writing exercises in between appointments.

42. Waiting Room Writing. Write in your notebook while you are in waiting rooms.

43. Checkout Line Research. Look through magazines while you wait in checkout lines at the grocery store or sit in waiting rooms. See what others are writing about – and getting published. Do these articles give you ideas for a different slant on the subject?

44. Glove Compartment Desk. Put items you don’t need all the time in the trunk to create a glove compartment writing office for your notebooks, pens, tape recorder, extra audiocassette tapes, and batteries.

45. Waddles with the Ducks. Take your laptop, word processor, or notebook to the park. While you’re sitting on the bench, watching the ducks and passers-by, write!

46. Airport Character Landings. Airport waiting areas are great places to write, especially if you have a carry-on laptop and/or your writing notebooks with you. There are enough characters and dialogue in airports to keep you writing for years.

47. Pray for a Great Idea. Try going to the airport chapels for a quiet place to write.

48. Traveling Stories and Characters. Airport restaurants or coffee shops are great places to eavesdrop on conversations and then make up the rest of the story. Who are these people? Where are they going? How are they dressed? Do airport writing exercises are like physical exercises in that they help to build up your writing muscles.

49. Forget the Stress, Write. Look for comfortable chairs or even, rocking chairs, in the airport main lobbies. You can sit and write, making yourself invisible and enjoying the scene, instead of stressing out over cancelled or delayed flights like everybody else is doing.

50. Coffee, Tea, or Writing Project. When you’re on the airplane, use the middle seat as a desk if nobody is sitting there. The tray table is perfect place for writing on your laptop.

51. Room to Write. Make a list of the rooms in your house where you spend the most time. Now set up writing spaces in these rooms. This can be as simple as having a kitchen drawer dedicated to providing space for your laptop, notebook, and pens. While you’re waiting for something to boil on the stove, open the drawer, sit at the kitchen table, and give yourself five to ten minutes of writing time.

52. Relieving the Telephone Blahs. Ever get into a long-winded conversation when someone is blah-blah-blah-ing? Why not have a notebook and pen by the phone and jot down phrases the person is saying or ones you are thinking? Use these to include in dialogue. You never know when someone will say exactly the right thing for your next story or article.

53. Reality about TV Watching. Do a log of your TV viewing. If you watch TV for one hour each day, cut it down to 30 minutes or to every other day. Use the time you’re saving by not watching TV to devote to your writing.

54. Who Cut Holes in My Newspaper? Never just read a newspaper or magazine. Think of your writing projects or ideas. Cut out articles, research notes, and phrases that pertain to your projects. Put them into files for future reference.

55. TV Writing Matches. When you watch TV, are you picking up any tips for your writing project? Quantum physics tells us that all life is interconnected. If you’ve felt the nudge or have an affinity for a certain television program, write about what you’re learning from its characters or structure.

56. School Spaces. At college or school, find quiet places where you can spend half an hour or more writing. This can be the library (if it’s not too distracting), a bench in the hallway or outdoors, student union during off times, or in an empty classroom.

57. Rent a Laptop. If you are a college student and don’t have a laptop computer, check with student services to see if your college rents them on a daily or weekly basis. Many colleges are starting to do this.

58. The Invisible Writer. Quiet doesn’t have to mean no people or noise. Quiet comes in places where you can go invisible. Write in coffee shops, fast food restaurants, a bench at the shopping mall. Listen for dialogue. Look for characters. Observe life around you for topics and issues.

59. Tina Turner or Mozart. Match the music on your radio or IPOD to the mood, tone, or theme of the piece you are writing. Some writing projects require classical music with Mozart to stimulate your brain; others require Tina Turner.

60. Deliver a Writing Message. When you’re away from home, send yourself a voicemail, e-mail, or text message with your hot writing ideas.

61. Character Kids. Kids really do say the “darndest” things. Jot down those gems right away. You think you’ll remember them but they’re easy to forget.

62. Get with It, Ma and Pa. No matter how old you are, get savvy about computers and the Internet. Everything in publishing these days is done through e-mail and the Internet. You don’t even see a paper copy of your manuscript. Files are edited, sent, and returned electronically to and from publishers. These are all timesaving devices that don’t require waiting for paper to be pushed around.

63. The Right Equipment Makes Writing on the Run Easier. Try the AlphaSmart 3000 word processor from which you can transfer files to your PC or Mac. It was recommended in the July 2003 issue of Writer’s Digest. Holly Niner writes, “I was unpublished and computer-bound. Now I can create while sitting in the school parking lot, on the floor at piano lessons, and in the dentist’s waiting room. Now I write, touched by the breeze of a spring day. And I have a book contract.”

64. Breaking the E-Mail Addiction. Set up an AlphaSmart or laptop somewhere that you won’t have access to the Internet. This gives you concentrated writing time without the distractions of researching and falling into an Internet puddle.

65. Hotel Lobby, Luvvy. Whether you’re traveling or not, go to a hotel lobby to write. Often there are lovely fountains and ambience. Definitely, there are characters.

66. Lock Yourself in a Hotel Room. When you need a longer block of writing time, create your own writer’s retreat. Go away to a hotel or motel just to focus on your writing project for a weekend or a few days. Maid service was made for writer's heaven.

67. Maintain Your Privacy. Above your computer or on index cards in your writing spaces, write the words: “For my eyes only.” This will cue your subconscious not to be fearful about your first-draft writing but to let it rip!

68. The Early Writer Gets the Prize. Arrive 15 minutes early for your appointments so you can write prior to the meetings.

69. Wow 'Em with Your Wisdom. Find a place where you can read your poems as performance art, such as an open mic night at the local coffee shop or bar.

70. A Chef's Night of Writing. Create dinners based on a novel or theme of the novel with everyone playing a part.

71. Let's Make a Deal. Ask for support from your family and friends. Tell them what times of the day or week you want to reserve for writing. Negotiate. Promise goodies and attention in return for being left alone during your writing times.

72. Give Kids a Chance to Support Your Writing. If you think this is appropriate for your situation and you chauffeur your children to games and lessons, tell them that you’ll be there to watch for a certain amount of time and the rest of the time you will be writing in your car or at a nearby fast food restaurant. Explain that seeing them play or perform is important to you and so is having time to write. Share some of your writing with your children.

73. Writing as Service to Life. Each morning, ask, “How I can give service to life with my writing?” Jot down the first line that comes to mind.

74. Make a Commitment to Writing As Service. Write the following affirmation fifteen times in your journal: “I am giving service to life through my writing.

75. Ask Help from a Higher Power. Do a meditation or prayer each morning after reading an inspirational writing or spiritual quote. Contemplate on when and how you could make time and space for writing.

76. Find the In-Between Times. Write a log of your typical day activities. Include when you get up and go to bed. What activities do you usually do in the morning, afternoon, and evening? When and how long are your meal times? Look for the in-between times when you might find 5 minutes to an hour or two that you could spend writing.

77. What IS Writing? Broaden your idea of what it means to be writing. The typical writing project requires "think-time,” researching, gathering words, phrases, and language, devising imagery, and organizing, planning, structuring the raw material, and looking for markets if you want to publish. Of course, you have to spend solid time actually writing your first draft and revising it but you may be doing more writing than you realized when you accomplish all the tasks that are associated with a writing project.

78. Animal Writing Coach. Is there are pet or animal in nature who brings out the writer in you? Can this animal be your writing “coach,” reminding you to take time for reflection and creativity? Our cat Cuddles sits on top of the computer, stretches her body along the length of the monitor, and stares at whoever is writing. It is as if she’s saying, “Time to write now. You’re not alone. I’ll be with you.”

79. From the Mouths of Babes. Assistant teach or volunteer in a writing class at your local high school. Listen to what the students are writing. What are their concerns? How do they express themselves?

80. E-Mail Your First Draft of a Dilemma. E-mail your way through life’s crises and challenges. Have one or more e-mail writing buddies. Keep the letters you and your friends exchange as you go through the situation. These letters can become the raw material for you to write more about the experience later, if you wish.

81. Great Writers Learn from Great Authors. Listen on an audiocassette tape to the writing of good authors while you are doing mindless activities such as running on the treadmill.

82. E-Mail Writing Buddies. Ask questions via e-mail to other writers about specific plot, character, structure, or marketing issues.

83. One-Page Wake-Up Calls. Write one page each morning as soon as you wake up.

84. One-Page Goodnight Kisses. Write one page each evening prior to going to sleep.  Make it a habit.

85. One-Page Midday Messages. Write one page each lunch break during the workweek.

86. Sundays in the Afternoon with Yourself. Write five pages each Sunday.

87. Out with the Old. In with the Renew. Reduce clutter from your writing area. Add plants and flowers, if these make you feel fresh and energetic.

88. Throw the Bums Out. Eliminate distractions from your writing area such as television, radio, or e-mail access.

89. Discover Buried Writing Spaces. Reduce clutter throughout your home. Look for additional quality spaces where you could write and/or store writing materials so they are handy all the time.

90. Sacred Writing Spaces. Make a sacred writing space in your home where you can get yourself into a writing mood by lighting candles or listening to calming music.

91. Sensory Deprivation. If you distract easily, use earphones or earplugs. Close the blinds. Type blindfolded.

92. Color Me a Writer. Use different color pens to match your mood or for changing themes or characters. Colored pens are also useful when you write and edit manuscripts longhand.

93. Get Mugged. Place mugs or other containers around your home and work with your favorite pens and pencils.

94. Somewhere in Time. At least once in his or her life, every writer should write with a fountain pen, preferably by candlelight. This transports you into some past, archetypal place and time when writing was revered.

95. Does This Excuse Make Sense? Complete the following sentence: “I don’t have time to write because____________.” Read your answers to a spouse or friend. Ask for help in overcoming the time obstacles you believe are preventing you from writing.

96. Law of Vibration. Notice when the people around you are reacting negatively to your desire to write and to the fact that you are getting serious about achieving your writing goals. Talk with them honestly and listen to their concerns about how they are “vibrating” because you (at the center of the universe) are changing.

97. Law of Resistance. Notice the people who are sabotaging your writing. Are there friends or family members who consistently call and deliberately interrupt your scheduled writing time? Who makes snide remarks about or ridicules your writing goals? Have honest discussions about why they are doing this. In some cases, these friends may be experiencing jealousy that you are doing something meaningful and they are not. This may mean that you reevaluate your relationship with envious friends or spend less time with them.

98. Establishing Writing Rituals. Have writing rituals. Put on a certain piece of jewelry or a scarf -- something that signifies that you are now into writing time and space.

99. Switch Gears. Keep your balance and mental and physical health by going for walks, getting fresh air, and exercising. Keep a notebook in the pocket of your workout clothes so you can catch those cloudbursts of creativity you get when you’ve cleared your mind, switched gears, and aren’t pushing so hard for just the right words or ideas.

100. Writing As If. If publication is your goal, start thinking and acting like a published writer. Get your teeth whitened for those television interviews. Start spiffing up your wardrobe. Practice reading your work out loud as you will in bookstore events. Keep a journal about HOW you wrote this book so you can answer questions writers ask of other writers.

101. Pay It Forward. Help other writers. It’s really true that you learn what you teach. Consider submitting your own 100-word idea with a 25-word bio about yourself for publication in the “Writing on the Run™ Tip of the Week” and possible publication in the Anderson’s upcoming “Writing on the Run™” book. (See Share Your Ideas for details.)

© 2004-2012 Allen & Linda Anderson. All rights reserved.



How to Submit a Writing on the Run Idea

E-mail your best 100-word idea for making time and space to write. Include a 25-word bio. If we publish your idea in the newsletter, you will receive a byline and the bio in which you can mention your own writing projects. For those of you who are getting started in writing, this is a good way to have a quick publication credit for your bio. For seasoned writers, it's a great way to share your knowledge with beginning writers.

We are also collecting ideas for a book we are writing on this subject. If we want to use your submission in the book, we will pay $10 for the idea. You will sign a publisher's release form granting nonexclusive rights for using your idea in our book.

Please include your contact information: Name, address, phone number (optional) if you want us to put your idea in the book file for possible use.

E-mail: writingontherun@aol.com





Book Coach Services
101 Writing Tips
Free Subscription
Media Kit
Inspirational Speakers
In the News
Start A Writer's Group
Why Write?
Writer's Pet Quiz
Writer's Block
Articles about Writing
Guilt-free Day
Contact Information


Writing on the Run, P.O. Box 16682, Minnneapolis, Minnesota 55416
Writing on the Run™ Copyright © 2002-2013. All rights reserved.
No part may be used without permission. Writing on the Run™ is a trademark term
and cannot be used without permission.