I recently had the great pleasure of meeting Mark Norell, chairman of the paleontology department at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. (He was once called “the coolest dude alive” by the Wall Street Journal.) In addition to being a world-renowned scientist, Mark is also an established author, with several books to his name. I asked him how he manages to write while holding down a full-time job and traveling the world, and here’s what he had to say:
- I don’t write at home because it is too distracting with things I like to do.
- I don’t write in my office because it is also too distracting with things that I should be doing.
- The best places for me to write are bars and airplanes.
- Bars are good because I can put my headphones on and there is enough ambient activity for me to stay focused (as strange as that sounds) and be creative.
- Airplanes are great for editing. I travel a lot, and it is almost freeing to edit something in a very clear and clean voice. I think that it helps when you are free from the internet, which causes me to occasionally overwork things.
- My most creative thoughts come when I am in the twilight between sleep and wakefulness. Jet lag helps too!
- Many of the books that I write are visual: others are purely text. What I find is that visual things (looking at art, old pictures, or just walking around by myself) helps the nonvisual books write themselves. I think that visual cues rekindle past experience in a very formative way. The obverse is true for the visual books, where reading brings up ideas for images and how to use images with text to tell the story.
If a man as busy as Mark can find time to write, surely you can too! What are your tricks for staying productive with your writing while working a full-time job?
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2013 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.