Three Writing Exercises While Waiting for a Train

One of the big challenges that writers face in completing their work is finding the time, particularly if you’re juggling writing with a full time job and/or raising children. The good news is that there are pockets of time we can avail of during our day. In an ideal world, we’d spend hours at a time in a book-lined study with the scent of incense wafting through it.

But the great thing about writing is that you can write anywhere, at any time. The tedious grind of modern life provides more opportunities to write than you can imagine. You can write while waiting for a bus or train, in a bank queue or while you’re waiting for your children to finish their extracurricular activities.

I’ve put together three short exercises that will help you make the most of these pockets of time and get the ideas flowing. It’s amazing how much you can get written in just 10 minutes.

1. A Story Without O

Write a story about any topic without using the letter O, or any other commonly used letter (vowels are a particular challenge). It forces your brain to think of more creative ways of describing things, and because you’re immersed in trying to think of alternative words that it’ll shut up the niggling voice in your brain telling you that this is nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense…

 2. Write Shite

This exercise encourages you to confront every writer’s greatest fear – that their writing is crap. For international readers, shite is an Irish slang word for crap. You write a story that for you is the definition of crap, whether that’s slushy romance, gross out horror, or tales laden with clichés. Put your story away, then come back to it. You’ll discover that there’s at least one worthy line in your story, and therefore, it’s not as crap as you thought.

3. Alphabet Soup

This exercise encourages you to have fun with words and set your imagination free. You write the letters of the alphabet down one side of the page and find words to match those letters. The kicker is that you then attempt to form those words into sentences, as follows.

A Black Cat Drifted. Every Friday, Gertie Hurls Icicles.

And so on until you reach the end of the alphabet.

You’ll end up with fairly wacky sentences, but as long as they’re recognisable as sentences, that’s fine. You’ll have to be particularly creative as you reach x, y and z. Then take the sentence that tickled you most and use it to write a story.

What are your strategies for filling those stray 10 or 15-minute time pockets? Feel free to share them with our readers.


4 thoughts on “Three Writing Exercises While Waiting for a Train

  1. Hi Derbhile,

    I could imagine doing (1) and (3) in my head while waiting for a train, but (2) is the one I want to try the most; it sounds like the kind of thing that in my case would require a relatively quiet carriage on the train itself, a table all to myself, and bringing out the biro and spiral notebook to scribble away.

    – Mel


    1. That’s what the train is for. These exercises are for any occasion when you find yourself waiting or idle. though daydreaming is also conducive to the creative process! Thanks for the comment.


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