As recently as a year ago, I spent most my subway rides scrolling through twitter and playing games on my phone. Every time the subway would travel outside for a minute, I would quickly try to refresh my twitter feed or send a tweet with the few bars I had gained. Since then, I’ve noticed some changes and what I would call improvements in my transit habits. I’ve managed to take my downtime on the subway, which is roughly 25 minutes each way, and create something really valuable with it. Not that playing games or sending tweets isn’t valuable or fun but I found a time in my day to do something beneficial for myself. My time spent travelling on the subway in the past 6 months has proved to be the best time to get ideas on paper, brainstorm and more generally, just do some writing. I’ve managed to turn time disconnected from the internet (which can be hard to find these days) into a time to clear my head and reflect on how the days events unfolded. In fact, most of my writing including this post was written or started on the subway. Seriously though, how often are you forced to disconnect and look at your phone without any connection? For anyone who owns a smartphone with data there are very few times this happens that don’t make you curse your phone provider. Many of you probably don’t think there is much value to your phone once you lose connection but to me, that is now when my phone gains some of the most value.
I decided to break this down and dive into why I get a lot of writing done on the subway and therefore, how time off turns into time on for me.
1. It’s often at the end of the day that I’m travelling on the subway to and from an event, or home. At this time I am usually reflecting and thinking of what happened that day. Most the notes in my iPhone (and there are a lot of them) are rambles of things I learned from someone on that day or ideas I have that stemmed from the day’s activities.
2. I have absolutely no distractions. Minus the man on the subway picking his nose and frankly, I’m okay with not watching that. I can’t check Facebook or my tweet stream for a few minutes which usually is my biggest source of distraction as I follow links or look at picture albums. I just plug-in my headphones and zero-in on the thoughts I’m putting on my phone. Once I start I’m usually flowing with ideas I want to put on paper, although, many are tangential which can make some of my notes quite confusing when rereading.
3. Most of all, I’m usually rushed. I know this seems like a bad thing but I always was the student at school that was starting assignments the night before it was due. I, like many others, work better under pressure. On the subway I’m forced to put down my thoughts in minimal time and I find that without any distractions I’m usually capable of doing so. Which also means that no matter how badly I want to ride the subway all day and get some writing done I can’t. Part of the allure of getting my thoughts down fast includes the rushing on and off quickly, switching lines and catching buses.
My subway rides have sometimes even left me wishing I lived further away so I would have time to complete the tangents that occur in my head. Now that’s a weird thought to have.
Disclaimer: I do know that the TTC is “soon” going to have wi-fi options available in the subway but am unaware of the full implementation details. As you can imagine, I’m not so happy about this.