Many writers know one of the most essential and difficult parts to becoming a professional (or even consistent) writer is developing and maintaining a writing practice. Routine, however that works for the individual, is key. So what do you do when your routine is interrupted – say if you have to travel to care for family, are relocating for a new job, or even are on vacation for a few weeks – but want to continue your writing practice?
First, while consistency is key in any practice, life happens. Your individual wellbeing is always of paramount importance – even when writing is your job, there may be times you have to take a break. You know yourself best, and these tips are meant to help you develop your best writer self. You may not be ready for that, or able to maintain it, at this time. That’s fine. Consider this your invite to bookmark these tips and return to them when you are ready.
Second, and hopefully you’ve heard this before: developing and maintaining a writing practice (indeed, any practice) means prioritizing your writing time. If you haven’t reached a point yet where you put writing ahead of some other things (not your wellbeing, mind), or you fell off that priority saddle and haven’t climbed back on, some tips may not be applicable. That’s fine, too. Even if you are in a good place, some tips may not be applicable. As with most advice, take what applies to you and leave the rest for others who may find it helpful.
Create the atmosphere – with sound, smell, and/or taste. While some writers can plop down anywhere and just have at it, that is not true for most (and even for a good number of those ‘some writers,’ it took years of practice to reach that point). When you’ve set yourself up for a successful writing session as a routine, a disruption to that routine’s setting can be frightful. However, if you bring a little of your setup with you when traveling, you’re setting yourself up for continuing your practice with little disruption. So whether it’s a coffee/tea ritual, music or ASMR vids, your favorite pen or notebook, or simply sitting with a timer in a closed room, mimicking your writing rituals in other spaces can help you access routine mode much faster.
Find a door that closes (window optional). Traveling often presents distractions not present in our everyday lives. And without the security of our home/routine space to retreat to, those distractions can easily derail attempts to maintain regular writing practice. So find a room, or any space you can fit in, with a light and a door that closes, and escape into your writing. Just don’t get distracted if there’s a window with a beautiful view until after you’ve done your writing.
Set a timer. Be beholden to that timer. (And give yourself permission to stop when it stops.) Even ten minutes of just you and the words can make a significant impact on your progress when done every day away from home. Just do it. And when the timer goes off, you can be done for the day if you want. You wrote. Yay you!
Don’t expect the same level of productivity – be more flexible and/or more realistic with deadlines. Even if you create a little writing haven, even if you find a space to close the door between you and the world, even if you’re now BFFs with a timer, you still may not be as productive, or creative, as you are at home. That’s fine. Travel requires your mind and body to pivot from their routines and deal with unexpected events a lot. That’s not ideal conditions for creating your best work. However, even if you’re only cycling through writing prompts or writing about the craziness of the day: you’re writing. Be gentle with yourself throughout your travels, and when planning your trip maybe don’t assume you’ll suddenly find 800 hours to start and finish that screenplay.
Be clear about your boundaries/expectations with others. Again, while dealing with the unexpected is part of travel, that doesn’t mean you have to bow to it – or to others’ perceived emergencies (or desires or whims or demands). Whatever your reason for travel, you still need time for yourself. If at all possible, set some boundaries with the folks you’ll be traveling with/to before you leave – and if not possible, don’t be afraid to set those boundaries while you’re traveling/staying. The sooner folks know you are going to take time for yourself, the sooner they can start adapting themselves.
Have multiple projects to work on. If you think you’ll be able to finish that 100,000-word masterpiece in three weeks of traveling, you may be in for a shock. Not only will time be a factor, but you also may not feel motivated to work on it. Writers lose steam on projects all the time, which is why it’s always a good idea to have another project or three in your head (or outlined if you go for that sort of thing) to maintain your writing practice when your preferred project isn’t speaking to you.
Have accountability. Bearing in mind again the constraints traveling can have on your writing time, set a realistic goal or two for that time frame and tell someone you trust. Tell them to nudge you. Text them when your day is crazy and you haven’t carved out time to write. Ask them to interrupt an uncomfortable family dinner with a call so you can escape for a few minutes (to write, of course). Check in with a writing group, or a class, at timed intervals to remind yourself that even though traveling can be a wild, unexpected time, staying dedicated to your writing is a priority.
Hopefully there’s some ideas that you find beneficial in these tips. And if you’re looking for fellow writers to commiserate with, find support in, and form relationships with, our online community as part of WP NOW is a great resource to connect with writers all around the world. Maybe one day you can travel (and write) together!