Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Would You Write in the Bathroom Stall at Work?

Toilet StallWould you steal a few moments of time to write by spending extra time in the bathroom at work?

Someone on one of the many newsletters/mailing lists I read advocates writing for ten or fifteen minutes (whilst sitting on the throne) at work – once or twice a day – as a means to find more time to work on your current manuscript.

I seriously doubt I could do this. Not only am I too busy at work to spend more time than necessary in the ladies room, but I have a feeling that the public nature of a four-stall room provides a less than conducive atmosphere for creativity.

Besides, I’m just not certain I want to be pretending to use the toilet, while attempting to write, while someone in the stall immediately next to me is actually using the toilet.

And can you imagine this conversation, after publishing a blockbuster novel that sells a bazillion copies:

Reporter: Just how did you come up with this fabulous idea?

Author: Well, I was sitting on the crapper when the idea hit me…

I’ve written before about finding small bits of time during the day in which to write.

I’ve found that I can meet my (self-imposed) word goal, even on busy days, by taking advantage of these lulls and wracking up fifty or one hundred, or even several hundred words at a time.

(It took me a while to get over the need for a large block of time in the day to get some writing in, but once past that mind set, I find I’m able to accomplish much more.)

I’m not usually picky about the aesthetics of where I choose to write, but I’m drawing the line at the restroom at work.

How about you? Could you carry a notebook (or netbook!) into the lavatory and work on your masterpiece?

26 comments to Would You Write in the Bathroom Stall at Work?

  • Honestly, I couldn’t write in the bathroom. Read? Sure, definitely. It’d be too awkward, for several different reasons.

    I did, however, once have a story idea inspired by a bathroom involving a character falling asleep on the toilet at work and then waking up only to discover some catastrophic event had occurred.

    Also, the picture of the bathroom stalls above is crazy! Those stall doors are so high that they seem to completely defy their own purpose.

    • Hi Sean! I’m not even sure I could read in the bathroom stall at work… I don’t think I’d want to be seen carrying anything in. (Regarding the photo…yes, I looked for something funny to post… šŸ™‚ )

  • LOL, this made me laugh, just thinking about it, and your comments echoed the thoughts in my head. No, I definately could NOT write in any public bathroom. Lunch/break room, stairwell, the alley out back, I can think of lots of other places at work to try and snatch a few minutes peace and quiet to jot down a few words, but if the bathroom was all I had, I’d have to give up writing!

    • Hi Terri! Your thoughts made me laugh out loud, particularly when I got to the “alley out back” part….I can just imagine the atmosphere (sadly, I’m thinking CSI or Law and Order) … writing amongst a burning hulk of car or near some fetid dumpster… sounds as appealing as a bathroom stall. (Apologies to anyone who works in a place whose back alley is fine….) Of course, a CSI-style alley might be all it takes to pen an awesome crime novel…

  • Well, now that I work at home, I can see me doing it. But if I were still working out of an office, absolutely not. Like you, I’m not sitting in one of a four stall bathroom, pretending to use it while pouring my heart out onto my netbook, or whatever. I guess sitting on the throne is just too personal for me.

    • Hi Roxanne!! You’re working at home now. Oh, bliss! (I do so once per week, wish it were more…) The nice thing about working at home is you don’t have to sneak off to the bathroom to get a little writing in… I’m sure just about anywhere else would do…

  • For a minute there I thought you meant writing on the stall walls.

    I’ve read the most amazing (and incredibly tacky) graffiti whilst assuming the position … however, I can’t say that I’ve ever come across a toilet … erm? … comfortable enough to sit there for any longer than I have to in order to write on my own stuff.

    And, even if I were inclined to contribute to the collected words of wisdom on the walls, (not me, nope, never!) I would make sure it took as little time as possible.


    • Hi Widder – I realized after I’d posted that the blog title was a little ambiguous. Note to self: don’t post when you’re tired. (I guess it could have been worse.) šŸ™‚

      I’m with you on the comfort issue, and not just from the physical side. I think I’d be spending a lot more time worrying about who knows I’m sitting there writing — or getting caught writing — when I ought to be working. That worry would suck all the creativity out of me.

  • What a great notion! That’s where I seem to get all my best ideas anyway. Why not write them down at the time?

    It’s also a way to ensure that my story will come out in the end.

    • Ahem.

      Seriously? The Husband of Awesome™ tells me that he gets a lot of ideas while in the shower. (IIRC, It’s been scientifically proven, in fact, that water over the skin sparks creativity. Must go look for that article…) But just sitting in the bathroom? Hhm. That one, I’ll have to research.

      But.. you’re such an idea hamster, maybe it’s just that you get ideas… all the time?

      And your last comment? Ew! Ew! Ew!

  • Carl Rauscher

    Are you kidding? My legs would fall asleep and I wouldn’t be able to get up if I were to take my writing materials in there with me!

    • Hi Carl ~ I never thought about having the extremities fall asleep while you’re sitting there. Going back to Widder’s comments about the comfort of public toilets, I’d guess you’re not far off the mark… I guess you could always take in a cushion! šŸ˜‰

  • If I worked outside the home? Yes, I would.

    As it is, I come up with many ideas in the shower, so writing on the toilet seems only natural in that instance. I’ve actually called my husband into the bathroom while in the shower and asked him to take down dictation! ^.^

  • Hey Kelly,

    I can’t imagine doing this, but when I was in college, I used to take my typewriter into the ladies room (though not into the stall) early in the morning so I wouldn’t wake my roommate.

    Something else about your post really struck me, though –

    “It took me a while to get over the need for a large block of time in the day to get some writing in, but once past that mind set, I find Iā€™m able to accomplish much more.”

    I currently won’t even sit down to write if I can’t spend at least two hours at it. Maybe I’m just being inflexible.

    Thank you for this revelation.

    • Hi Lisabet!

      Oh! I wish I’d had you as my college roomie. My roommate washed her hair EVERY morning, and came back to our room to blow dry it!

      Regarding chucks of time to sit and write: I get the most done when I’m focused and can spend an hour or more at the PC. But I found that there were days this wasn’t possible. So…. if I couldn’t find an hour of uninterrupted time, I didn’t get to write at all that day.

      But, I have lots of what I call “waiting time” during the day when I’m doing nothing but literally waiting for something or someone. I’m in traffic, or I’m in line at a store or pumping gas or waiting for the last person to arrive at a meeting. If I can write a few sentences or paragraphs during those times, my word count really adds up. I can sometimes finish a scene, or two, during these fractured periods. [On the other hand, there are some days when all I can manage is jot down ideas of where I want the scenes to go.]

      The drawback to writing in bits of time, of course, is that the writing isn’t always fluid. I often need to edit those scenes more than the ones written when I have a large block of time. And, if I don’t know where a scene is going, then i can’t write anything.

      I didn’t think it would work for me, but it does….but I do find it a hard habit to maintain sometimes…

  • Well, it depends on what you mean by “writing”. I consider myself to be “writing” when my hands are otherwise engaged (doing dishes, hanging up laundry) but my mind is busily sorting out plot complications and composing sentences. I might even mouth fragments of dialogue aloud to see how they sound. Later, when I am able to grab my laptop, I download what’s been stored in my brain.

    So, sure, I’d “write” in the bathroom at work, and in fact, have. Those few moments when no one is talking to me or otherwise making demands on my attention allow my mind to slip back to what it really wants to be doing. As I leave, I mentally hit “Save” then “Continue” at the next opportunity.

    • Hi Justine

      I tend to whittle out plots like you, but without pen and paper, I’d be afraid I’d forget the dialogue bits. Do you have any tips for remembering these things when you hit your mental “save” button?

  • Gayle G.

    Wow! My initial reaction was ‘No Way’; however, I could see myself writing on my iPhone actually. I read on it in the bathroom, so why not write if the mood hits.

    I draw the line at actually using the phone in the bathroom though.:) That just seems crass.

    • Hi Gayle! I think you’ve just tipped the scales for folks who would take some kind of physical device (laptop/paper and pencil) into the bathroom and write.

      I should have added another question at the bottom of my blog: if you would spend a few extra minutes in the bathroom…how much time would you grab?

  • Thanks Kelly! It looks like I’ll be ordering some Aquanotes! šŸ˜€

  • That’s a tough one… no pun intended, ew! When I didn’t work from home, my jobs have included Wal*Mart and working as a phone rep. At Wal*Mart, I’d -ahem- borrow the ends of receipt rolls (when the pink line appears, you were supposed to change them) and write on those between customers either at my cash register or in the break room. They fit neatly into my pocket, and I always had to have pens, so if I had needed to use the rest room, I _could_ have potentially written in there. However, you actually got timed when you swiped to go to the bathroom or leave the register, so I never would have the time. In my phone rep job, I could write between calls, and that was pretty easy to do, so I wouldn’t have to steal time to do so.

    That said, were I to not have such time and were I still in an out-of-the-house job, I don’t know if I’d completely flush the idea of stealing bathroom time to write. (Yes, that pun was intended. Smack me at Balticon when you see me!) I keep pocket-size notebooks and pens with me or in a purse. It’d require long-hand jotting, but I could do it. And if I had a smart phone, even more reason. It’d be just five or ten minutes here or there, in uncomfortable circumstances… but, really, leaning over a cash register while on your feet all day trying to hide your scraps from the Dragon Manager from Hell… holding your bladder because it wasn’t your “turn” to take a break and relieve yourself… well, for me, toilet writing is definitely a better choice.

    • Hi Trish!

      WalMart times people on their trips to the potty? How draconian!

      Lucky for you you have the full-time work-at-home gig. [Wish I did!] Now you only need to write in the bathroom if you want, too!

  • Margery Ritchie

    I haven’t used the workplace stall to write in–I’d be afraid of getting a fallen bladder. The most I’ve done while “installed” is jot down ideas or phrases that might come to me (on a small notepad that I carry in my purse). And, sometimes I’ll take a page or two from my work in progress in with me to edit. I don’t find the restroom at work conducive to creativity, unlike the home bathroom, where ideas arise while showering or brushing my teeth.

    • Hi Margery! You can edit while ‘installed?’ That’s a topic for another blog post, I think. šŸ˜‰

      The scales are definitely tipped toward working in the bathroom now…I may have to re-think my stance!

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