It all started with one question “what would I do if I was a full time writer?”. The answer was pretty simple: write, days in a row, all day; if possible, in a nice place.
A long weekend was coming up. I was single (still am) and had no plans for the long weekend coming up and decided to do just that. I chose a mountain nearby, found a Bed & Breakfast, paid with frequent flyer points and spent four days in heaven and finished a book. I travelled with the train, and for that trip, spent very little. Then I was hooked, I am now on my fifth writing trip in one year and a half.
It took me a few more trips to correct, edit and rewrite the book, to get it ready for publishing and I am here, on another trip, working on the book proposal and on my blogs, which get neglected when I’m writing a longer project.
I recommend the travel writing strategy to all aspiring writers who still need to work full time. Make arrangements with partners and children, mothers and friends, make this your time and make it sacred and uninterruptible. I ascribe to Mike Dooley’s precept of “do what you can, from where you are, with what you’ve got”, it cannot fail.
What to look for?
- What resources do you have, what can you spend?
- What type of places and views inspire you the most within your possibilities?
- Avoid distractions / do you need a place with no connectivity?
- Which sort of place makes you most productive?
Search your soul for your answers and find the resources. At the moment I am cat & house-sitting a friend’s house in the countryside, overviewing green hills, with the sound of a creek in the background and jumping wallabies in the forefront, the sound of birds and crickets lulling me. This is my ideal setup. Yours might be a busy city with numerous cafes with fantastic Wifi. It might be an ocean view, or a quiet house. Although I love the water, for writing, green hills are even better.
Get the closest you can to your dream. Think of house sitting for a friend, or paying one AirBnb while renting your house out to someone else. It might mean house swapping and looking at a friend’s plastic swimming pool at their backyard. If that is the closest you can get to the ocean, so be it, the different environment, your imagination and your commitment are to be enough enough.
No bull, no lies
I have a perfectly nice apartment, with a desk overlooking the neighbourhood, looking out of a large door, I could lie to myself and say I would stay in and write all weekend. It would be so much cheaper than travelling and I could do it EVERY weekend! But, I would be lying to myself. I get distracted and anxious with what I am not doing, not going to the beach or not talking to my friends, the dishes need washing, there is food in the fridge that will go off if you don’t cook it, all 300kg of it, and the clothes might self destruct if you don’t wash them today.
During my writing masters I did that, spent weekends working on assignments and I’ve managed with a great degree of pain. While being away, writing eight hours a day feels effortless.
Remember to think not of what you SHOULD do, but what you DO do. Think of what is reality for you, not what works for other people.
Make sure your friends and family know the hours you are unavailable, take it seriously and impose boundaries. I love places with limited mobile connection so I don’t feel obligated to answer messages and phone calls. More important than others is to make sure YOU understand the restrictions and don’t let yourself waste days lost in distraction and resistance.
Talking about resistance, usually, a writer’s most persistent enemy is her/his own head. The fear about the quality of what we write, the terror of finishing a project, the angst about the research, the character or the plot…
To understand more about resistance, I recommend “The Icarus Deception” from Seth Godin. He explains it perfectly. Work on your internal mindset in advance of the trip. Be emotionally prepared so you can make the most of the effort and time.
Have a broad plan of what you want to work on. Is it a book? An article? What would you like to accomplish? Don’t be too strict, avoid creating unrealistic expectations that will make you feel under pressure and anxious during the writing time. The plan is just to get you ready to get to work straight away. Once you start, whatever comes of it is perfect.
My plan for this trip was:
- Finishing my book proposal to send to literary agents;
- Send it for editing and proofreading (hiring the freelancer and sending them the material);
- Work on my blogs; so when the agents look at my sites they can see some recent action and a fresh sample of my writing; and
- Reserve time for free inspired writing, in whatever inspires me at the time.
Free inspired writing
What I call free inspired writing is what comes out when you are turning off your critical self, sending it off to a vacation somewhere else, far from you, or give it a sleeping pill. To get to it, you must forget all the shoulds, don’t worry about the quality or the quantity, turn off the inner and outer voices that are constantly criticising, analysing, commenting and evaluating. Eliminate judgement, scratch too long, too short, too emotional, too detailed, not enough description, not enough… you got the gist. Let it be, let it be… sing with me.
Free inspired writing is a first-first draft, it is raw and imperfect, full of mistakes and with absurds in logic, but it contains the CORE. The seed of what it will become. And, creating it, writing like that, is the joy.
You need to make the commitment to have your work re-written, edited, criticised, proofread. By yourself and others, pulling up any resources available. It could be writing groups, asking friends to read your material, hiring freelancers, or, if you have the means, paying high-end editing professionals. By knowing that the writing will be put to its highest quality, you free your inner-first-drafter to do the free inspired writing I have mentioned above.
Keep the good habits
On the other hand, when writing your first draft, keep some good habits to avoid a proofreading nightmare in the future. At least make sure the ideas are clear, use capitals and good punctuation, set a minimum standard.
When I get to my writing location I do what I need to show myself I mean business. What works for me is waking up in the morning and getting ready as if I was going to my regular job. I usually dress more comfortably but I still get dressed, put earrings on (earrings mean I’m not naked or sleeping), make my bed (so I don’t feel temped to go back to it and read the day away), have breakfast, make myself a nice extra cup of coffee, get my writing gear to the chosen writing location. Sit down and write for as many hours as I feel like.
What is your signal? What do you need to do to tell yourself that you are here to write? Pyjamas? Lighting a magic candle? A nice cup of green tea with pomegranate? Do it. Make it a symbol to your inner writer that says “ready, go!”
What you need to remember to take with you:
- Your project notes or file (remember everything you need including voice memos)
- Your laptop or writing pad or typewriter – your chosen writing instrument
- Accessories needed: mouse, internet dongle, pens, paper, extra typing tape
- Power: laptop powering cables, extra batteries for mouse
- Special screen cleaning wipes
- Writing/reading glasses
- Notebook or sketch pad if you use them for support
- Favourite pen / extra ink (fountain pens) / extra pens and pencils
- Download any needed research and support material, if you won’t have connectivity
- Download music for writing; many writers have the right music for the right project, make it ready and available offline. Create the right playlist in advance, if you need it.
- What item is essential for your highest productive writing
- Think of food
What is essential for you?
For me, it is coffee. That is why I bought a mini expresso making machine and a portable frother. It doesn’t matter where I go, I can make the perfect cup of coffee. Tea, chocolate, nuts, candles, what is the little thing that works for you? Remember to pack it.
Thinking of food
Food can be one of the most time consuming and most effective distractions in a writer’s working day. I recommend thinking of food in advance, either preparing a few nutritious easy meals in advance, or researching the food delivery options near the location where you will be staying. I get organised to have a few days of easy food at hand, so I don’t waste too long with meals and can dedicate most of the time to the writing.
Alone and completely connected
Writers are a strange breed… If I told my friends that their holidays would be spending alone writing at least 8 hours a day, most of them would think it’s a punishment. Instead, I feel so connected to the world, to myself and my mission in life, to my real purpose, that I come back happy, refreshed, inspired and can’t wait to start planning the next writing trip.
Right now, I’m on a covered balcony, overlooking green hills. I am listening to the creek’s water music, the birds are singing, a cockatoo is screeching, a light rain is starting to fall… I can smell the grass and the bush, the wet soil; I can see the sun on a far away mountain and the mist crowning another, as a halo, I hear the thump-thump of a wallaby moving nearby. I can almost distinguish the sound of each drop of rain fall, while my fingers fly over my keyboard, and I smile.
These trips make me feel like I’m doing what my soul was put in this Earth to do. I have no idea if that is true or not, but this is free inspired writing right? So, who cares!