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Warrior Commuter Writers

writing screenwriting commuting alexis howell-jones

I go to work using Southern trains. Since I'm writing this on a massive strike day when I've spent four hours commuting, I thought it would be good to discuss how much more you can actually achieve as a writer whilst jammed in a tram.

On that basis, these are some thoughts on ways to add a bit of writing, research etc. to a commute. Some of these are my preference, so if you can mess with it to suit you best, groovy.

Some of this may also be blindingly obvious, but if some of it gives you an idea that gets your ideas moving faster, then great.

Firstly, if you drive to work, ignore this save for podcasts. I'd rather you watched the road. If you are on public transport however, even for a few minutes, maybe just maybe you can sneak in some writing, research or improve your writing skills.

Because all those minutes add up into hours, into days of research. And would you like to:

- find out what Beyonce's doing these days on some news site? - improve your Candy Crush top score; or

- become a working, paid writer?

So here goes:


I use an app called Wunderlist - others like Evernote are available.

Apps like these allow you to set tasks (e.g. write screenplay) with several subtasks with diary prompts as to timescale, so you're always getting reminded on pushing your projects, following up, chasing up pitches and so on...

It's hard if you're not being pushed. It's helpful to write your own game plan and be reminded to execute it.


Science alert - Meditation is good for you and your creativity!

Headspace is great, as is a guy called Andrew Johnson's apps. Many others are available.

If you really are that tired out, at the worst you can claim you're improving your creative mind. Or just hungover.

Music apps - science part 2 - if you get some music which relaxes you and is familiar, it's really helpful for getting you into the creative state.

So get your playlists humming. I have about 10 go to film soundtracks I regularly listen to and am comfortable with to get me going.


Delete them. Just do it. Now you don't have any distractions. Candy can crush itself.



There's an app called Story Skeleton which is basically index cards on the move. It's on iphone, not sure if it's on Android. Handy if you're trying to get things into order in your head - and it's exportable to FD.

If you like visual boards, I recommend a site/app called Padlet. it's a blank board where you can put in pictures, descriptions, videos and so on. Handy re those historical epics to see how they all relate - and you can effectively beat out and storyboard ideas.

I type up notes of ideas and email them to myself - but I recommend a subfolder for each project you have - just for sanity's sake. I know where all my ideas and information are when I look for them, without having to wade through hundreds of emails I've sent myself.

Writing drafts

I've got Final Draft Writer, so I have no reason not to do a scene here or there. Celtx is free and has an app too, as an alternative.

Just 15 minutes each way each work day equals 2 hours 30 minutes of writing every working week.

Even more if there are leaves on the line.


For redrafts - I have the Adobe Acrobat app for script and my email open - I go through the pdf of my script and email myself the relevant page and amendment in each email. Then I can just go through them when I get home. It's easier than trying to amend on the move.


I have sneakily been amassing hundreds of film and TV scripts over the last couple of years either from searching online or getting latest oscar nod scripts through various sites.

There's lots of cloud storage sites including icloud or Google Drive. I have a Dropbox account which allows me to download documents to read offline - and it's not going to take a massive amount of data to save loads of scripts to read.

It's helpfully distracting to be able to read Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when you're stuck on the "Veal Calf express" to London Waterloo.


Always good to stay up to date. Script Daily, Variety, or Deadline Hollywood are examples of many apps to keep you updated.


There's lots of great Podcasts. Catch them like they're Pokemon!

Scriptnotes with John August and Craig Mazin, On The Page with Pilar Alessandra, Austin Film Festival On Story Podcast, BAFTA Screenwriters Lecture Series... the list goes on.

Just search screenwriting podcasts on t'internet. If you're stuck bumper to bumper, get some knowledge rather than more bland DJs back to back '00s classics on the radio.


Stay away from the dull gossipy news articles and other distractions and there's a wealth of great blogs, sites and so on.

Bang2Write, Go Into The Story, ScriptAngel, Script Lab... this list goes on even longer than the podcast one!


Especially on Facebook and Twitter - Just get rid of all the sites which feed you detritus which doesn't relate to writing. After that, just like all the helpful writing blogs etc.

That way when you read Facebook, it's all about writing, the information comes to you and you feel less guilty about using it!


Meetup is a great way of finding writing groups wherever you are. I've made several friends and contacts through them.

I also met my wife due to a meetup group, by accident, through a Karaoke singing group - but that's another odd story to tell another day.

I'm an awesome singer by the way. Ahem.


Because networking is important - I chat a lot to fellow screenwriters and other film types. But only if I've done my writing...

Anyway, hope that's food for thought. I'm going to bed. Strike's on tomorrow again and I have a 2 hour commute each way.

That's enough for some research and a scene or two on latest draft!

Night night


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