In Which I and Other Writers Talk About Writing Whilst At Sea
Posted on March 5, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 10 Comments
While I was on the JoCo Cruise Crazy 3 Cruise, I took part on a panel about writing — which was a surprise to me, actually, since I showed up to watch the panel and then Bill Corbett, who moderated the panel, said “Oh, good, you got the note that we wanted you on the panel,” to which I said, “No, I didn’t, but okay.” The panel was for the Nerdist Writer’s Panel podcast, and you can listen to it here.
Other writers on the panel: Bill Corbett (Rifftrax, Mystery Science Theater 3000), John Roderick (songwriter/columnist), Josh Cagan (screenwriter), Randall Munroe (cartoonist), Joseph Scrimshaw (comedian/playwright), Molly Lewis (songwriter) and Adam Bernstein (songwriter). It’s a really good mix of writing disciplines and perspectives, so I encourage you to take the hour or so you’ll need to listen in. Enjoy!
Is there a special difference involved in writing whilst at sea? Is there some kind of special adjustment you have to make in your typing or something? Like getting your sea legs, for example.
I dealt with by doing no writing at sea whatsoever and actually enjoying my vacation.
While cleaning the garage I found some of my old journals from back when I was stationed on the USS Ranger in the late ’80s. While much has changed since those days, most notable is that my handwriting has not improved at all. It still sucks.
Is there a special difference involved in writing whilst at sea?
In heavy seas, I would recommend bolting everything down.
@Ron: Not really. (Particularly on something the size of a modern cruise ship.)
The late Alex Haley wrote Roots and much of his other longform work at sea, in the era when A) many cargo lines still carried a small number of passengers on their ships, for a reasonable cost, and B) going to sea meant you were pretty well isolated from the rest of the world. He apparently found it a great way to eliminate distractions and focus on the writing.
Particularly on something the size of a modern cruise ship.
I was on a cruise ship that got in rough seas overnight. We were swinging side to side (roll) pretty severly, to the point that I was getting pushed around in my bed a bit. The bow was going up and down (pitch) to the point that wave peaks were coming up to the height of the main railing, but due to the length, it couldn’t pitch as much or as violently as it could roll.
Man, oh man, could it roll.
Not sure I would want to be in seas rough enough to cause something as big as a cruise ship to pitch OR roll…
Just before I started writing again, I participated on a 3-week work cruise in the Sargasso Sea. Beautiful blue water. Only about 4 hours of work per day. No internet except limited email that got sent to and from the boat once per day via satellite. Nothing but beautiful blue water in every direction to the horizon. Days upon days of sitting around listening to the engines thrum while staring at the water. God, I was bored out of my skull.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been on a distraction-less cruise like that since. All the other ones have been packed with actual work, and by the time that’s done I’m too tired to do much besides sleep.
I very much enjoyed your appearance, and in particular your lack of avoidance of truthfulness when presented with questions that seemed particularly self-directed. Traditionally, the NWP questions “Start with a ‘why’ or a ‘how’ not an ‘I'”. So the approach you took was awesome — the “Let’s not be precious” specifically — and I thank you for it.
@Greg: I’m a marine engineer. Trust me – what you describe is normal (if not milder than normal) for most non-passenger ships in anything much over a flat calm. It’s all relative. (I have experienced zero-gee, or as close as one can get to it without going into space or up in the Vomit Comet.)
I started writing when I was a singer on a cruise ship. Loads of free time and not much TV – boom.