Sunday, January 3, 2010

Location, Location, Location

Whew, survived another holiday season! This time of year, to me, typically means more travel than usual, at least out of town if not out of state. I’m fortunate that my mother doesn’t live too far from my Los Angeles sanctum, but it’s still a sizable drive. The rest of my family is scattered to the four corners, which means braving airport security just so I can enjoy a nice plane ride filled with writing.

Earlier in my blog, I discussed being able to write anywhere to take advantage of odd writing moments throughout the day. In this entry, I thought I’d expand on that a little bit to discuss the traveling writer and some of the excellent opportunities to write that present themselves away from home.

Airlines are always encouraging their passengers to arrive in advance to check in, and in this day and age, it’s a good idea to show up well in advance of your flight just to make your way through the increasingly heightened airport security. As such, your writing opportunities begin before you even board the plane. Instead of counting the minutes until your flight starts boarding, try a word count to see how much you can get down before they start pre-boarding. This is actually a pretty good incentive to get to the airport on time for those who typically have “no time for writing.” What else are you going to do, browse the overpriced souvenir store?

The flight itself is the perfect opportunity to delve deep into your writing. You’re stuck in a cabin with nowhere else to go except the lavatory, there’s really no scenery to look at once you hit 30,000 feet (unless you really like cloud formations), and for the price of those airline headphones you could rent whatever in-flight movie they’re showing. They even provide you with your own mini-desk, and the flight attendants will fuel your creative juices with nearly any kind of drink you want. This is the perfect situation for a writer to be in – no one calling you on the phone, no chores that you remember you need to do, none of the usual distractions and excuses. It’s just you, your writing, and at least a good half-hour of writing time. And unlike the writer’s usual coffeehouse haunt, they’ll bring your drink to you on the plane.

Now, writing away from home can be tricky depending on where you’re staying and who you’re staying with. Family has a habit of taking priority if you’re visiting them for the holidays, and it’s considered rude to ignore your hosts if they’re letting you stay at their place. Fortunately, the same rules apply here that apply at home – you can write first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed. Time changes can help you out here, because everyone expects you to be jet-lagged after the flight, so it’s not unusual for you to wake up before everyone else if you’re going from East Coast to West Coast, or to stay up after everyone else has bedded down if you’re going from west to east. When I would visit family in Texas for the holidays, I’d still be wide awake after everyone else had succumbed to sleep, so I was able to get some nice, uninterrupted writing done without being disruptive or reclusive.

Of course, you might also get lucky and have a wonderful, understanding family like mine who supports your writing and wants to give you the opportunities you need to get in a little alone time for that story you’re working on. If this is the case, make sure to tell them at every opportunity how much you love them, because this is the greatest gift a writer could ever ask for around the holidays.

Jet lag can help you out here as well. People expect you to be tired after a long flight, so they don’t mind if you excuse yourself early to catch some “shut eye,” AKA writing time. Hey, if you can come up with excuses NOT TO write, surely you can come up with an excuse TO write. Right? Right. And if you’re visiting family that you’re not exactly keen on spending too much time with, this is a good way to get out of hearing Uncle Ned’s retelling of how he got kicked out of the Vatican for the millionth time.

As for the flight home, repeat the above section on airports and airplanes. Seriously, it’s some prime writing time, and you’d be a poor writer to pass up such an excellent opportunity dropped in your lap like that.

The traveling writer has a great deal of time to work on his craft while out and about, he just needs to seize it. (And I mean “his” in an all-encompassing sense, not to leave our lady writers out.) The trick is not to let a good opportunity pass you by, and to create those opportunities yourself if given half a chance. Trust me, your inner muse will be glad you did.

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