Friday, June 30, 2017

Writing on the Go

Word counts while traveling depend entirely upon your ability to arrange for vast wastelands of time and boredom. Sort of like being a kid in the backseat of a car driving from one end of the continent to the other before cars had anything fancier than wheels, engines, and seatbelts. The external scenery, historical markers, triumphs, and tragedies rolling past the car window lull you into boredom. And that boredom encourages you to explore your internal landscape. Yes. I grew up on road trips. Expeditions, maybe. All those hours and all of that country passing - it wrote itself into stories. I doubt I'd be a writer were it not for my family trekking from one Air Force base to the next via a rust bucket of a car pulling a travel trailer. To this day, when I block, I get in the car and start driving. Story problems unravel to the tune of tires on pavement.

Airplanes are also prime word count time for me, because what could be more worthy of psychic escape than being held captive in a tin can at 30,000 feet? If writing means butt in chair, airplanes have your number. Might as well do something to take your mind off being smushed between the fuselage and whoever has the middle seat, right? The only issue with planes is that getting to use a laptop isn't guaranteed. If someone in front of you want to recline, you risk your screen. I make sure I have old school tools. What pen and paper lack in flash, they make up with flexibility. I also find them easier on my head. Flying inevitably gives me a migraine and looking at a backlit computer screen is excruciating. Pen and paper are less likely to make me wish I'd died.

If you want word count while traveling, pick your traveling companions well. Most writers have a list of 'safe' people, as well as a list of people they love, but who will never allow them to write. It helps to be really clear and honest with yourself. If your beloved, chatty mother is traveling with you, your choices are to get up an hour before she does to write, or you acknowledge it's not happening this trip. Conferences are the same - because those involve some intense commitments, you either take a break on writing or you commit to a time to write that won't end up subsumed by conference crazy. 

The whole point of travel is to remove you from the ordinary. It's the reason I advocate so strongly for solo writing retreats. It's invaluable for a writer to walk away from responsibility for a few days - delegate the care and feeding of the family so the writer can be responsible for and to nothing but herself and the page for a few days. Modern life is full of noise to the point that most of us start having trouble hearing the voices of our stories. Solo travel clears that racket away. Besides. When you're by yourself there's no one to tell you to stop writing that nonsense and get some sleep. There's no one to tell you not to have another glass of wine while you sit scribbling or typing madly away.

Traveling in any capacity flips a switch on my imagination. I get kicked into Beginner Mind, I think. In that space, I see everything as new. Including my stories. Stories and characters I've never seen before rise up in the middle of the night to wake me and demand I write them down when I'm traveling, especially if I'm traveling alone and don't have to worry about waking anyone else when I flip on the bedside lamp at 2am. So yes. Traveling means writing.

BTW. The results after last week's maudlin post. A feeding tube and a cat who's feeling much better.