Why The Subway Is My Toilet Stall

Note: I know the title is a bit much but stick with me for a second and all will become clear.

I’m a big fan of Yuvi Zalkow. If you’re not, you should be. And if you’re too lazy to Google him, just click here and you will quickly become one.

Yuvi is a self-proclaimed failed writer, which sucks. But thankfully he has taken all the “free time” that comes with being a failed writer to create an entire series of rather insightful, often helpful and blissfully geeky videos that encourage hacks like me to find ways to write crap1.

Now, I bet you’re probably still wondering about what this all has to do with the whole mass transportation and restroom bit, so let me elaborate (or more likely clarify). One of my favorite Yuvi videos, Writing a Novel When Busy introduces the idea of taking advantage of the bathroom stall at work to get little bursts of writing done. Over long periods of time, you can string these scraps (or scribblings as Yuvi calls them) together to create blog posts, short stories or, if you’re feeling plucky, a novel.

Sadly, the after many awkward attempts it became clear the restroom was not for me, but the idea of short creative spurts stuck with me. As a card-carrying member of the ADHD club, complete with the add-on goldfish memory, I often would come up with ideas and lose them just as quickly. What started as quickly capturing ideas in Simplenote became full-on writing sessions on the finest B trains that NYC has to offer. I started by writing titles and quick, sentence-long summaries and ended up writing entire posts while riding the rails. In fact, the two most popular posts on this site were both written while standing between fellow commuters on the way to and from work.

While it may take some time and some experimentation, find your bathroom stall. Find those places and take time to capture and expand upon your ideas. You’ll be surprised at what you can actually create in those brief moments and I guarantee you that when you take a step back and look, you’ll be amazed at how big of a creation you can make in even the most cramped of spaces.

Now do yourself a favor… head over to Yuvi’s and enjoy all of his hilariously useful presentations. Also subscribe and stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Yuvi!


  1. Thanks Yuvi, I’m sure everyone appreciates that…  

14 Responses to Why The Subway Is My Toilet Stall

  1. This is great, Michael. Not only is it a killer title for a blog post, but I like how you’ve gone beyond my toilet writing stance into something that can apply to more people in more situations. Very cool. Thanks also for the kind words!…

    • It was a really helpful presentation (as many of yours have been for me). Made me look at my “busy” schedule more carefully in order to find and fill the holes with creation. The kind words are my pleasure and well deserved. BTW, I finally made the jump to Omnifocus and your animated bowing guy was selling it short! Loving it!

  2. Ah, now it all makes sense. I long ago learned to grab the tail of the muse when it came. My bathroom stall is wherever I am and my paper is whatever happens to be nearby. Probably my car is my biggest “stall.” As a mom of four, I’m often sitting waiting for kids. I usually carry my laptop everywhere (which is why I’m kinda hard on the equipment) and I pull it out and type while I’m in line at their school or waiting for soccer practice to end. Hey, whatever works.

    • Couldn’t agree more! Let the magic happen wherever it is want to happen! The one habit that I really had to get into was just making it the same mechanism and as much as I like writing long term on my phone is the thing that is always with me and always at the ready to capture or expand upon an idea. Thankfully things like Simplenote and nvALT make it easy to quickly capture on the go and then work on them right on your mac.

  3. I’m sorry. I haven’t gotten further than the video yet. But I have to ask…how freaking long do you spend in the bathroom? Because I’m in there maybe 30 seconds at a time, which is NOT enough time to even write a thought on a post-it note.

  4. OK. I’m back. My short spurts are really a bit longer – but when riding. I totally think of all sorts of things while I’m riding. So I get the idea. Just not in the bathroom.

    Also. I have a bone to pick with you. Please put a quote from me over there ——->

  5. I love this idea Michael – hell, I even wrote about it last year when I was trying to run an H&R Block office and blog.

    But like a lot of things – I forgot all about it (yeah, most days i have a hard time remembering my own name)

    Now I’m all excited and giddy to find those creative places to do some short spurts of writing.

    I do want to suggest that @ginidietrich:twitter does not use her riding time as her bathroom:

    1. she might get hurt
    2. umm…that’s just gross if you are following her too closely.

    Thanks bud!

    • Love it when an old idea pops back! What’s actually really fun is the next logical step. Where you expect just to capture the idea and end up writing the entire damn post. 

      As for Gini, I just fear for the poor bicycle seat… :)

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