Monday, July 15, 2013

Writing on the Road

When you're in airports, hotels, and the homes of friends and relations, it's harder to be a productive writer. The cues and creature comforts and replaced by distractions. And, when you reach for that reference, note, or favorite pen, it's not there.

Here are some tips on how to keep your momentum going when you're on the road.

Set modest goals - Be happy if you find 15 minutes each day of productive time on a project that matters to you. More is better, but small advances are fine.

Anticipate problems - Know what your resources will be. Will you be sharing a space? (Bring noise-cancelling earphones.) Will you have no connectivity? (Bring essential references.) Will you have childcare responsibilities? (Bring something that will keep them occupied.)

Plan ahead - Know, for each day, what you will do during your 15 golden minutes. Make it as specific as possible. (I will rewrite the "first kiss" scene. I will list nine ways my hero can fool the monster.) Make it real writing, not writerly activity (such as research and promotional activity).

Accept good enough - Sometimes you get lucky and the muse enjoys the new environment. Words pour out and they are beautiful and fresh. Usually, the prose is a bit off. This can lead to new discoveries, but it is more likely to lead to more rewriting later on. Forgive this. Most people simply fall apart and get nothing done and take several days at home to get back into the groove, so you are way ahead of them.

Seize opportunities - When I travel, I'm rarely without a few index cards and a pen or pencil. For this modest investment, I have gotten wonderful returns in terms of capturing (in full sentences, of course) sensory input, character studies, overheard remarks, and flashes of insight. A lot of these have worked their ways into scenes (sometimes years later), and a few have anchored stories. Note: This is a glorious bonus, but it doesn't replace the 15 minute (or more) commitment you make to yourself.

Overall, you have two jobs when you are on the road...  First, you need to move forward on a project that matters. Even a few inches is enough. Second, you need to get the most out of your trip in terms of what it can bring to your writing and on its own terms. Do gather sensory details and new perspectives. Don't cheat your relatives or your clients or your muse.

No comments:

Post a Comment