Getting In The Space To Write: 4 Things I Use

I almost fell off my bike. It was July 13, 2013. I was at the gym that night, putting some miles in on the stationary bike. The place felt pretty empty for a Saturday, but I liked that because I had access to more machines, and felt that I could take my time.

I was already on edge that night, but the exercise was helping me to manage myself. I normally keep my head down on the bike, but I pedaled that night with my head raised, headphones plugged in, and eyes fixed on the television above.

The more I tuned in, the more I began to notice that my legs were moving faster than they normally did. My focus was narrowed, and I was increasingly aware of the pace of my heartbeat. I almost fell off my bike when the words came out.

“We the jury find George Zimmerman, Not Guilty.”

I literally had to catch myself in that moment. I got off, and in a daze, made my way home in near silence, and early that next morning wrote “How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?

Occasionally I am asked about how I get in the space to write, and where I gain my inspiration from.

While some of my notes might be planned, others come about out of having some experience, or recalling something so moving that I just have to share. To me, writing is as much as an outlet for myself as it is a way for me to connect with other people.

For instance, I wrote “Randomly Organized Thoughts From 3500 Feet” after taking in what was happening as my plane was descending into my hometown after a long trip. I wrote “Hurry Up And Wait: On Social Justice Elitism, And Eagerness For Social Change” after engaging an interview panel.

Repair What Has Been Broken, While There’s Still Time” was written while I was in the hospital room with a family member on the last day of that year. I wrote “Blindspot Redacted: Uncovering Privilege” when reflecting on a learning opportunity I experienced while teaching, and I wrote “The Climate” after having a conversation with students on campus.

relando thompkins jones and notes from an aspiring humanitarian

While I hear that location is important, I don’t always use the same location to get my writing done. Sometimes I write in my office, sometimes in bed, I might write at the dinner table, or even record some thoughts on the way home.

Still, there is some method to what I do, and aside from being inspired to write, here are 3 additional things that I like to keep around to help me finish.

A notebook with a pencil or pen–Sometimes, I’ve found that I need to jot down ideas as soon as they come so I won’t forget. I have also started several notes in my notebook, only to type the rest on a computer.

Music & headphones–Having headphones in my ears helps me to focus. Although I typically have my playlists set to shuffle, if I’m writing, I play a single track on repeat. Doing so allows me to use the repetitive sounds to focus, while simultaneously ignoring it.

A recording device–Sometimes, I might be stuck in my head when I should really be speaking from the heart. When that happens, I take a few minutes away from writing, to say it out loud; to speak to the core of the point I’m trying to make. Afterwards I listen, and write it out.

If you’re a writer, where do you write? How do you write?

Are there any topics that you would like to hear more about from (N.A.H.)? You can let me know in the comments, or by contacting me via email.


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones, MSW, LLMSW



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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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7 Responses

  1. A. Michelle! says:

    I write in the moment….the moment of nostalgia, the “after” experience and just before dawn. I also have dozens of notebooks and many notes in memo form on my phone. “To write is to breathe.” ~M.

  2. Jodi says:

    I’ve been trying to focus on making better choices around knowing when to write and when to stop. I can do much better work in less time that way. Limiting my time on the computer to only when it’s productive has also helped.

    • Thanks Jodi, knowing when to stop is an important skill, as limiting time on the computer. Sometimes, doing a bit of research on the topic can be good, but I’ve noticed that I can sometimes go so far off track, that I end up doing something else entirely. Being intentional about how we use out time is a great piece of advice.

  3. Kiri says:

    I have never thought of recording my writing to play back (don’t like listening to my voice!) I feel I often struggle for clarity, but then if I hit publish anyway, I will get feedback about how clear it is. I wonder – are they reading what I was trying to write, or are they getting something different out of it?
    Bed is my favourite place to write, and usually in the morning.

    • Thanks for sharing Kiri! Yeah, I don’t always like the sound of my voice on a recording device either, but I really have found talking it out to be really helpful towards getting me started, and other times, finishing as well. I like writing in bed too sometimes. As a matter of fact, that’s where I’m writing this comment right now.

  1. November 10, 2015

    […] Day 6 Prompt-The Space To Write: Getting In The Space To Write: 4 Things I Use […]

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