Posted by: Liz Massey | May 3, 2008

Building Your Grid: Commuter Creativity (Time)

I like to say sometimes that I’m building my small business empire from a bus seat, and it’s mostly true.
When I began my current day job in 2004, I lived only 20 minutes from the university that employs me. I moved about 15 miles farther out in 2005, and last year, I bought a house about 5 miles even farther out than that.
For much of the last 3 years, I’ve ridden city buses to get to work, or caught an intercampus shuttle that takes me directly to my day job from a satellite campus of the university that’s nearer to me. That choice to take mass transit, bolstered by my employer’s decision to provide staff with free bus passes, has given me at least 45 minutes, twice a day, in which to create.

What have I done with my time on the bus?

  • Composed blog posts.
  • Drafted articles.
  • Edited articles, both my own and the work of other writers.
  • Read books I’m using as research for articles, posts, workshops, etc.
  • Developed outlines for workshops I plan to teach.
  • Tracked my weekly progress on my writing, coaching and blogging goals in a journal.
  • Brainstormed new article ideas.

When I have a week or a month where I have to drive in to work frequently, I miss my bus time. Choosing commute time as my primary creative time does the following for me:

  • It provides a reliable 90 minutes a day in which to practice my craft free of most distractions.
  • It has helped me become very good at “chunking” my projects into pieces that can be completed in 20- or 30-minute stints.
  • It also provides an environment in which I can easily “fish” for ideas–there’s stimulation there if I need it for inspiration, yet quite a bit of “white noise” and rhythmic motion to lull me into a state where ideas can emerge from the subconscious.

The trade-off, of course, is that almost all commuting options besides single-passenger car trips cost extra time–which in my case translates into lost sleep. However, I would need to carve out the time to do my writing anyway–so doubling up and writing while I commute seems like a winning combination to me.

The questions to you:

Have you ever worked on a creative project consistently on the bus, light rail, or other form of mass transit? Did you enjoy the process? How did your project(s) turn out?


  1. […] (This is the third in a series of posts on creating on the go; the first two focused on using commute time effectively and constructing a mobile […]

  2. A twist on using commute time for creative endeavors ~ while “waiting” for my young children at sports and activities, I draw. In my canvas bag are a moleskine, drawing pad, Pitt pens, etc. and I draw or sketch, working on pieces over several days.

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