Why (the Dream) of Writing from an RV Wasn’t for Me


Or What I Wish I’d Known About the Creative Process Before Ditching our Furniture

Mid last year my honey and I moved out of our expensive apartment in San Francisco, gave away most of our belongings, sold our car, and used the money to buy an RV.

Writing and Living in an RV

This is us on the day we purchased our new home, affectionately named The Purple Turtle.Traveling while writing is a dream for many. So, why didn't it work out? This may sound flippant, but the short version is I underestimated the importance of an interrupt-free environment. I’d read the writing books that advise to arrange your work-space so you can get in the zone, to which I applied a liberal dose of cynicism.

That voodoo get in the zone bullshit doesn’t apply to me. Surely if I just hunker down, put on some headphones, and focus in 20 to 30 minute chunks with one of those time management apps I'll be fine? Unfortunately 6 months of sharing a micro-space validated an important fact. More specifically a door to an office that closes, so you can work undisturbed.

Unfortunately 6 months of sharing a micro-space validated an important fact:

Doors are a writer's best friend.

A writers best friend is a closed door

I'm embarrassed to admit that every piece of advice I read and ignored was correct.For me it takes about 90 minutes to get into my writing flow.

Which is about the same time it takes before my amazing honey (working from another desk in the RV) either needs to go to the rest room or get up to make coffee.

And in a 33 foot RV every movement, no matter how small, causes the vehicle to rock furiously. Hard to ignore, even with headphones!

Other Unexpected Challenges of RV Living

Saving cost. Not so much. Our RV was cheap (think $9,000 for a 400 square foot apartment on wheels). Even with gas and park fees, we'd done our calculations and expected RV living to cost us less than a tiny apartment in most cities. 

Our RV Being Towed

Then the Purple Turtle collapsed. Unlike the writing on the tow truck promised, having an RV towed is not 35 tons of fun.A new transmission costs four thousand dollars even when it's an older rebuilt part (ouch!). Not to mention the thousand dollar brake job when the wheels starting squealing like a thousand mice were trapped inside, or the moment (post repair) when the brakes gave up entirely. Thank God we weren't hurtling down a mountain at the time.


RV Hate. Gotta admit, I didn't see this one coming. Not until the first time we parked on a friend's street in Livermore, California and before we opened the door a posse of neighbors appeared and demanded to know exactly when we'd be leaving. And it's not only neighbor-fear that's a challenge. Lots of cities with homeless problems have started putting zero RV rules in place. Yes I'm talking about you Santa Cruz, California. Hard to visit my Mum when we're not supposed to park anywhere in the same city.

Travel time. Here's an interesting graph. It shows my productivity with editing my novel by month.

Edited works per month

See those blow-it-out months with the smiley faces versus the others? That's I was stable in one place; Oregon in July, Taos New Mexico in October, and locked in my Mum's guest bedroom in December.

But see the most recent super smiley face? Thats the month we left the RV behind and moved to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, our all new plan for saving money and finding writer Nirvana. In a house with 2 separate offices, each with doors!

So, do I regret buying the RV and traveling (even though she's now at a consignment lot seeking adoption)?

Not for a moment.

My honey and I traveled to Albuquerque, where I met the amazing writers of the Women's Fiction Writers Association at their annual retreat and we were privileged to become temporary residents of the locations in the photos below (New Mexico in October is not to be missed. Do it once this lifetime!).

But, would I recommend trying to write a book from an RV? Not so much.