Some readers think paranormal authors are hunched down by candlelight under the eaves in a dark garret while lightning flashes and thunder ominously growls, Poe's raven peering over their shoulder at the furiously scribbled prose, quothing, "A little more! Go for a vein!"
Writers write wherever they can find the time, space and energy, be that garret or grocery line. Inspiration isn't picky where it strikes, and like lightning, is swift and unpredictable. We plant those seeking rods at our comfy desks in hopes of drawing that sizzle during the allotted hours (or minutes!), but more often than not, it lights up the imagination in the most inconvenient places. In the car on the way to work. In the middle of a manicure. Watching baseball practice. Waiting for your fast food order. That flash, if not quickly seized, just as quickly fades and is gone. And even as I repeat a phenomenal line of dialog over and over as I pull in the parking lot to hold onto it, by the time I find my keys, unlock two sets of doors, find the lights and a notepad on my desk, what I have is a ghost of what I envisioned at the stoplight.
Authors need to steal their mantra from the Scouts: Be Prepared! Learn to use the recording app on your cell phone and have it assessable in the car on drives long and short (Use them at the stoplight, not while changing lanes, please!) to capture those pithy quotes. Carry a small notebook in your bag to jot gems of plot while in the wild. Consider a light weight tablet to capitalize on any available barista table or bleacher knee. The bottom of my purse is littered with Post-It notes (my drug of choice) to memorialize that clever twist of tormented backstory needed in Chapter Twelve.
There's no such thing as a non-writing trip (or moment). Who knows when those electrifying mental images will strike. I never leave on an overnight without my trusty HP and power cord . . . just in case my characters decide they have to have sex in my hotel room. And I have a lighted keyboard just in case they prefer to do it in the dark.
A missed opportunity is rarely recaptured with its original vim and vigor. Be prepared. Be vigilant. Keep an eye on the sky and have that lightning rod at ready. Here are some places my computer and I have found ourselves working in a few paragraphs:
On a cruise ship balcony in the dark watching the sun come up by the light of my monitor and keyboard while my fellow travelers were still sleeping . . .
Finishing a chapter during a power outage trying to type fast enough to outlast fading battery...
Stretched out on the floor on the Miami airport . . .
On the train . . .
E-mailing chapters of work done over the lunch hour to my home computer . . .
Over breakfast at the Cubs Bar in O'Hare during a four hour flight layover (see above) . . .
Watching the dessert come to life at sun rise in Tucson (I seem to always be getting up earlier than the sun!) . . .
Sneaking out of a workshop to tuck away in a game room with one heck of a view . . .