A lot of writers have day jobs. Making a living from wordsmithery alone is not as easy as it was in the days of Shakespeare, when all you had to do was be one of two local writers that could hold a quill in order to go down in history.  These days everyone with a notes function on their phone can have a go, slush piles are the size of the giant redwood, and rather than trawling through them publishers turn to the equally underqualified beautiful celebrities instead. I think that’s how it works, anyway – this précis is brought to you by much reading of articles on the state of publishing today and not through direct experience of having my own work passed over in favour of very tall footballer Peter Crouch. 

Anyhoo, what this means is that just like the plebs normal, non writing folk, writers nowadays often have to commute. Actually, even those ones who write for a day job and can do it from their home office or Dahl style writing shed have to travel sometimes. Surely not, I hear you gasp, but friend – consider the following.

They might have to deliver a workshop or book signing, attend the library to do some important research using archival materials, or turn up to meetings with publishing bigwigs about just how enormous their next advance is going to be.

A photo of some archival materials

This means, dear reader, that as you go about your daily commute, They are amongst you. Whilst you, the business person in your suit and tie, read the metro or answer work emails on the morning bus or train, there could be a weirdo in the next seat mining your actions for a short story, novel or even a poem. A surprising amount of poetry is set on buses.

You might see the work commute as dead time, or time to read a book, or make a shopping list, or catch up on the latest hits of Coldplay. But the writers amongst you see it as a treasure trove of information. Why, I drafted this very blog post on the top deck of an X26 surrounded by 12 – 15 silent, able bodied white people, an endless source of fascinating material for centuries.

An amusing mug

The lady in the red coat, for instance, got caught in the rain this morning. I mean, we all did, it was tipping down and totally unavoidable. But how did that make her feel? Based on her body language (stiff and straight, arms folded tight across her), I’m guessing damp and uncomfortable. What a protagonist she could be!

Inside a bus – not an X26 though

Or, a few weeks ago, I went to Copenhagen for a long weekend and on the plane ended up beside a chap who had picked up the free copy of the S*n newspaper. My initial thought was ah, here is a gent that is not especially interested in learning what is going on in the world – but he had skimmed yet entire thing before takeoff and then abandoned it for a mystery text on his kindle. Was he a regular reader? Did he just pick it up because it was free? Maybe he likes to read it occasionally to find out what the common man is imbibing, news wise, but more often than not is a Die Welt kind of guy. We just don’t know. But the commuting writer will sure as crimminy have a go at making it up if they think it has fiction potential.

I’m not telling you all this to worry you, I just think you should be aware of the facts. Writers commute. They may be among you even now, mining your morning routine for sweet sweet content.

Have a nice day at work…