Tuesday, August 4, 2015


I felt this post from May of 2014 deserved another go-round and so here it is...


Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road. 
- Jack Keruoac, On the Road 

Photo by Mike Carlson
If there’s one thing you and I most likely have in common, it’s that we spend a lot of time on the road. Long drives are a fact of life in Wyoming. So I’m of the opinion that it's essential to make good use of windshield time.

Here are some ways I use drive time to hopefully become a better writer, mile by mile:

For some reason, I get lots of creative “stuff” when I’m driving. Dialogue, essay angles, setting nuance (what color is that stretch of grass, really?) and plot tangles. I know I should get a tape recorder, but I’m pretty adept at scratching a few key words on a notepad that sits on the passenger seat, while I look straight ahead. You scoff— but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it. For this kind of drive time, I keep the radio off and my ear tuned to anything the muse has to say.

Sometimes I crank the tunes and let the music take me where it will. Lyrics enter my brain better in the car than anywhere else. Sometimes poems come out of this listening, but most of all I get character insights. I was listening to Tim Grimm’s song “Holding Up the World” one day and it occurred to me that it “belonged” to Keenan, one of my fictional characters. It sent me off on a whole new tone with him, followed by corresponding plot elements.

I have gotten some high-caliber education during long drives by downloading podcasts to my little iPod and playing them in the car. High tech? Not really. If I can do it (with a little help from my husband when I have questions) I bet you can too.

Just a few of my favorite writing-related podcasts are:

Writers On Writing: a weekly radio program on the art and business of writing, where an impressive cast of writers, poets and literary are interviewed.

Authors On Tour: Live! I don’t know about you, but I’d attend all of the writer events held at Denver’s Tattered Cover Bookstore if I could. With this podcast, I can be there for a lot of them.

KQED FM – The Writer’s Block: A weekly reading series featuring stories, essays and poetry by writers from all genres–includes accomplished beginners and established authors.

Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing: When my attention span is short or I’m just running a few errands, I use the time to brush up on little details--the kind that editors will nail you on. This podcast is billed as a “friendly guide to the world of grammar, punctuation, usage, and fun developments in the English language” and it delivers.

New Yorker: Fiction: I don't always make time to read short stories. The cool thing with this podcast is that well-known authors read works of fiction by their favorite authors, and talk about the story. Examples: Rick Bass reads Thomas McGuane’s “All the Land to Hold Us”; Margaret Atwood reads Mavis Gallant’s “Voices Lost in Snow” -- They've got a poetry podcast too!

And you? How do you make those miles count? 


  1. Hi, Lynn. Nice blog. You're right, it was worth repeating. Didn't see it the first time. ;-) I think I'll look into some of those podcasts. Sounds like a good idea. Can use my iPhone or laptop.

  2. When I first wrote this, I had to use my iPod. Now I can access with my iPhone. We can curse technology, but for free education--it is great. Of course, you probably know that Garrison Keiller's, The Writer's Almanac podcast can be downloaded too. Great poetry there!

  3. Great suggestions! I also read recently on Writing and Wellness about listening to audiobooks from an author's perspective while you drive, thinking about the author's style choices and language and such. I haven't tried it yet because I love listening to music in the car, but I plan to give this a try, along with some of your suggestions. (Grammar Girl sounds like a good start.) I once taught myself a fair amount of Russian using language-learning tapes from the library (many moons ago, when cars had cassette players).

  4. Chere: I read that Writing and Wellness piece too, and was inspired. We do so much learning through our eyes, maybe we neglect our ears. I know that when I had to learn two languages, when I was in the Peace Corps, that just listening to the people talk was a huge boost. I did more language learning that way, than any lessons I studied.

    Hope you find some podcasts that you enjoy. Thanks for reading our blog!


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