It takes me between 30 to 40 minutes to get to work every morning, and, depending on the day, between 40 minutes to an hour to get back home. It’s quite a change from the days when I worked in my own room, when there was no commute, and I could be tapping away at my computer the moment I woke up.
One problem I had when I worked at home was the lack of discipline when it came to time away from the computer. Whether it was going to the gym, writing, or brainstorming, I had trouble pulling myself away from whatever was happening on the screen. What frustrated me the most was my habit of constantly refreshing nytimes.com and going through various design and business blogs. While I would occasionally pick up some helpful information, the majority of the things I read online were quickly forgotten or quick distractions that were the data equivalent of junk food.
I still find myself wasting time at the office in this manner but being forced into a computer-less subway twice a day has definitely helped me to find the time to read, write, and think. Here’s a rundown of some of the things I’ve had the pleasure of doing on my commutes in the past month:
– The Life of Pi by Yann Martel – a very sweet read with a great payoff; I can’t believe I almost missed out on the significance of the ending!
– Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
– Master of St. Petersburg by J.M. Coetzee
– Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
– a bunch of New Yorker articles (loved Menand on Kerouac and Mead on an unlikely liaison to North Korea)
– a couple books on logo/stationery design
– half of a short story about a guy who comes across an old email from an ex
– a subway observation of a white woman and a black man, complete strangers and both middle-age, engaging in a conversation (and exchanging emails)
– lists of things to do at work for the and for the rest of the year
– Kanye West’s Graduation album, especially Big Brother, an emotionally transparent song about his relationship with Jay-Z (both wince-inducing and interesting at the same time)
– Kimbap from Woorijip
There are some days when a thing or two would heavily occupy my mind, making it hard to read or do anything else – these instances are not so pleasant. And then there are times when the trains are just too packed, so it’s hard to hold a book. And since it’s hard to get a seat on the morning commute, I find myself writing only when I am on my way back home, late at night. I have also fallen asleep a few times, but thankfully never long enough to miss my stop.
It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that I get most of my reading done during my commute. That is, reading outside the scope of online blogs, newspapers, and non-New Yorker magazines. But aside from the few moments I spend in the bathroom every day, the subway seems to be the only other sure place that is absent of the distractions that make reading, writing, and reflective thinking harder to do. This is not so much a complaint about the overabundance of distractions in my life – and by “distractions,” I mean other people, phone calls, emails, television, computer, and beer – but more of a self-reproach. On a daily basis, it’s an improvement over the days when I worked at home, but I no longer have the luxury of taking off entire afternoons to go to a Starbucks to read and write stories to keep me happy. I’ve been lazy and uninspired, and finding myself in such a state has been both disappointing and frustrating (how’s that for transparency?).
So, what next? I’ll need to suck it up and make sure that half story turns into a full one.