Does Travel Help Your Writing?
Okay, this really isn’t our plane but it’s the best I could find. (No, that’s NOT me with the red sports car and umbrella.)
Off we go, into the wild blue yonder.
Pre-flight Check …. Done
Takeoff ….. Yup, we’re in the air!
Time to get some writing stuff done!
Our 777 broke through the clouds, leveled out and I slid my Surface out of the seat pocket in front of me. I had three things I wanted to do, or at least start on, during our 12+ hour flight to Beijing. First, was start a beta read for another author. Second was work on my next book, which I had only a rough outline and some notes for. And, finally, jot down some ideas for my author Facebook Page and start trying to design my author web site.
In fact, none of that happened. I started with the beta read but it quickly became apparent that there was too much going on around me to concentrate. Next, I pulled up my book outline and notes and was immediately interrupted by the flight attendants serving beverages.
I gave up on the Facebook Page and Web site before I even started, pulled out my Kindle and opened the book I was reading. Thirty-six percent of the book, two meals and 3 movies later, we landed in Beijing.
For the two weeks we were in China and Thailand, I read every night but, added nothing to my novel.
Where did the writing go?
It’s now been a little over a week since we returned from our trip to Asia. My body has almost caught up with where I’m at yet, I sit staring at my computer, wondering how long it will take me to get back into writing. I know I left with dozens of ideas in my head but, they all seem to be hiding now or, are still on the plane, somewhere over the polar region.
Based on that, the answer to “Does Travel Help Your Writing?” is a resounding “NO”. One might even say it hinders it, not just during the trip, but afterward. At least until you can get your head back into write mode.
Does travel help your writing? … NO! But wait … maybe that’s a Yes?
But is that really true?
Looking back on this and previous trips, I think about the tons of notes I’ve jotted down. Every time we had a day off, or came back early from playing tourist, we would crash in the bar lounge area and, first thing, out came my notebook. In fact, I came back with a plethora of notes; not just for my next novel but ideas for a second autobiography, guest posts and several short stories.
It’s here that I should include a caveat. My autobiography, Love is a Pretty Girl with a Cape to Share your Dreams With centers around my life of traveling all over the world. It consists mainly of funny things, stories and quips from my travels. But, I don’t think that type of travel inspiration would apply to most writers so, I’m not going to count that as helping you write. (I hope that makes sense. If your writing your own autobiography and it includes your travels, ignore my caveat.)
Other than my autobiography, my travels and travel notes have, in one way or another, inspired events, chapters and sometimes, a whole novel. In each book of my romance trilogy, I have taken my couples to places I’ve traveled to. In book one, Horses of Tir Na Nog, it was primarily local attractions and places where we hang out. That was to give them time to discover each other and my readers a chance to get to know them.
In book two, The Sisterhood, they get married and for their honeymoon, I took them to all of my favorite places. London, (our home away from home) and Canterbury at Christmas. Paris, to ring in the New Year and finally, Istanbul (to captivate them with its history, as we are every time we’re there).
Book three, Dreams, finds my characters again traveling, but this time within California.
Use your senses to create a picture.
How does this help my writing? The most obvious answer: It gives me something unique to help pull my readers into the story. But, it’s really much more than that.
When my first book was edited, Jason, my editor, commented on every other page, “Show don’t tell”.
“Right. What the hell does that mean?”
Then, I pictured a place I had traveled to and asked myself, how should I describe it? How can I pull the reader into the picture I’m describing? That led to (for example) describing my characters arguing instead of just writing down what they were yelling at each other. Describing their affection toward one another as they realized they were in love. And, as I got better at it, not just putting words on paper but painting a picture of each scene with the words I wrote.
The more I think about it, almost every day of every trip has generated ideas for a scene, an event or something I could have my characters do to make them and their lives more interesting. Describe …
- a garden we visited
- a tram, train, or tube ride we took
- a fantastic meal we had and the restaurant we had it in
- the wonderful aromas and tastes of the food
- the excitement and beauty of sitting in a town square, covered with snow at Christmas
- anything that pulls your eye to it. (And what pulled it there.)
- anything that fascinates you (And what fascinates you about it.)
I would like to think that I’m a good writer but, even if I’m not, I love what I write and, it gives me a chance to relive so many wonderful adventures.
In reality, travel has not only helped my writing, it’s allowed me to become a much better writer and share what I love with my readers. And, isn’t that really what being a writer is all about?
Comments and Questions
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Care to add a comment based on your experience?
Let me know.