How to keep writing when you’re travelling.

As I mentioned in my last post I am currently away from home. I’m in Toronto at the minute and will be travelling to Niagara Falls, Michigan and New York over the next two weeks. I don’t know about other writers but I’m a creature of habit when it comes to my writing. I like to write before bed, normally writing half a chapter, I also write on the bus and I keep a notebook with me all the time when I’m at home. I type up in chapters, usually at uni so that I don’t get distracted. I even have a favourite computer at uni and I always feel like I don’t get as much work done if that computer isn’t free. So when I’m away it can be a challenge to keep writing. There are so many distractions and I don’t always have access to a computer so by the time I get home there are pages and pages to type up which means that sometimes not all of it makes it to the computer and I loose pages of good writing.

A few years ago I was on a beach holiday in Portugal and I decided that I was going to have a complete break – no writing, just reading as many paperbacks as I could fit into my suitcase. This seemed like a good idea at the time. We were going away for ten days and I thought a break would help my writing.

I think it was three days in before I was gathering as much hotel stationary as I could find and writing by the pool. I even used the odd napkin. It was awful because of course my notes got ruined or lost and it was frustrating because I had some good ideas.

Since then I have learned my lesson. I always take a notebook on holiday. Normally when I go away I’m not bothered if I get any writing done or not, I just wait and see. But this time I’m working on a novel and I’m about a third of the way through my first draft. I’m writing about 1500 words on a good day (I don’t tend to write on the weekends because I work then) and so I want to keep the momentum going. It is so much easier said than done though, particularly if you are going on a city break and you won’t be lying by the pool with loads of time to write. So what do you do? Two weeks would be a long break from writing all together, so I’ve devised a plan for myself – as always, everybody’s different – and I’ve created a few top tips on how to keep writing when you’re away from home.

  1. Make use of travel time.
    You might like to sleep on the plane but that time can be useful, you don’t have to talk to anyone, you can listen to your music and write away. Plus, if there’s no turbulence it is far easier to write on a plane than it would be in a car or on a bus. I like to get on a plane with an aim in mind – writing a chapter or getting an outline completed during the journey. This keeps me focused and means that I don’t write something completely different to the manuscript I am currently working on.
  2. Always take a notebook!
    Hotel stationary just isn’t the same. You’ll end up with bits of paper all over the place, notes on receipts and napkins and they’ll all end up at the bottom of your bag covered in splodges of sun cream. Take a notebook and a few pens. You can always buy when you get there but I’m picky, I like a notebook that isn’t too big as this can be intimidating and I like blue ink, usually a Papermate. Is it just me that gets obsessed with stationary? I think it’s a writer thing…
  3. Set yourself some manageable goals.
    Just like writing productively at home, you should have some ideas in mind of what you want to write and how much. Be realistic though, you are on holiday. I’m hoping to write three chapters on paper during my holiday, though really I want to write more than that. I write about 1500-2000 words per chapter so with all the flying and driving we’ll be doing this should be manageable! Having goals of what exactly you want to write – maybe a short story you’ve had in your head for a while or a chapter you want to go back and redraft – takes the pressure off if you are tired from travelling. You are just writing down what is already in your mind rather than creating something completely new.
  4. Don’t be afraid of inspiration.
    I find a lot of my best ideas come to me while I’m travelling. There’s something about a change of scene and new experiences that just makes my mind become twice as creative. Therefore if I have any new ideas while I’m away I’ll run with them. I’m going to keep going with my novel of course, but if I come home with a short story and a new plot twist I wasn’t expecting instead of the three chapters I’m hoping for, then I’m ok with that.

I hope these top tips are useful, particularly as I know a lot of people will be travelling at the moment. Let me know if you have any tips for writing while traveling below.

Speak soon,

Hannah

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