For someone who considers herself a homebody, I sure do a lot of traveling. In 2010 I traveled to Seattle (2x), New Orleans (2x), Boston, the British Virgin Islands, England, Scotland, and Spain. And that’s just the trips I remember. I figure I spent at least a quarter of the year away from home (and thus away from my desk). And, for the first two months of 2011 alone, I have trips planned to New Orleans (where I am as I write this), Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.
Travel presents a range of delights and agonies, but perhaps one of the most challenging for me is not losing momentum on my writing. There’s the trip itself, which, if it’s a vacation, can mean getting nothing done, but also the lead-up and unwinding after you get back — all lethal to my writing output.
Sometimes being out and seeing the world is a source of inspiration, prompting unexpected visits from the writing Beast, and the experiences accrued from traveling most certainly benefit us writers. Getting away from daily life and leaving behind your mundane worries and tasks can be mentally liberating, too. But, just as often, even if you pack your laptop and best intentions, the writing well remains dry…or ignored altogether.
Here are 2 things I do every time I travel, which unfailingly result in a productivity rate of zero:
1. print out draft versions of short stories or novels with the intent of line-editing them on the plane. Because you wouldn’t want to be stuck with nothing to do but watch all those free movies on the seat-back screen. Riiiiiight.
2. pack a blank notebook with the idea that all my “downtime” (cause there’s always so much of that on the road) will be ideal for world-building/brainstorming/plotting. I have a lot of blank notebooks, many of them now yellowed around the edges.
So far, the only thing I’ve found that works in the slightest is to just stuff the ole’ laptop into my purse (yes, I have a huge purse) and carry it around. When a free moment or two strikes, I pull it out and keep working on whatever I’d be working on if I was at home. Pretty prosaic, and pretty hit-and-miss in terms of productivity (also, that shoulder bag gets heavy). But it’s the best I’ve got so far.
A few other observations: when I’m traveling alone and staying in a hotel, I’m quite productive at night and/or early in the morning. Along these lines, when I attended Readercon last year I got a ton of writing done. Being around other writers and attending writing panels was really inspiring. I’ll be at the Superstars Writing Seminar in Salt Lake later this month and I’m hoping I find the same thing to be true there.
But, given how much I travel, I’d really like to develop more consistent strategies for keeping up with my writing. So, I’m asking for your input, advice, and tips. What works for you when you travel, and what tactics are a bust?