As writers, we understand that inspiration can come from anywhere. Even the most mundane, ordinary moments in life can awaken our inner muses. So vacationing as a writer tends to include a hope that we’ll find fresh ideas during our travels. At least, that’s the hope I tend to have.
Last month, I took my brother on a two-week road trip across the country to visit family. We drove from South Carolina to Wyoming to Texas and home again. Along the way we hit the Badlands loop in South Dakota, visited Yellowstone National Park in Montana, and saw the UFO Museum in New Mexico. We drove through canyonlands and across plains, over bridges and bayous, and saw mountains galore. I started the trip with lofty ideas of how this adventure would fuel my writing. I came home again feeling energized and recharged, but not in the way I was expecting.
I think many of us writers approach activities with a dual-mindset of enjoying experiences while also considering how they might fit into a book or blog post. We tend to think about how we’ll describe a moment, sometimes before we’ve even finished living it. So how do we make the most of our vacations, when our creative brains never fully want to turn off?
Here are 6 Easy Steps to Vacationing As a Writer:
1: Pack Plenty of Reading Material:
You’ll want to be sure to bring along all those books you’ve been meaning to read for months. Reading is the perfect vacation activity, as it lets you kick back while still feeling productive. (Forgive yourself quickly when you don’t even finish one book despite having brought three. You didn’t really think you’d have time to read, did you?)
2. Pack a journal and plenty of pens.
Traveling to new places is sure to spark a thousand new ideas, and you’ll want to be ready to catch them all. You might even want to keep a daily record of all you see and do. Right before bed, you can pick up your notebook and pen and. . .*yawn*. . .well, maybe it’d be better to write tomorrow.
3. Take a Thousand Pictures
A picture is worth a thousand words, so just think of the huge word count to be found in an army of pictures! If your family and friends tease you for stopping so often with your camera, just remind them it’s important to your career. Those flowers will look great with your next blog post.
4. Write Down the Names of Places and Save your Maps:
If you’re visiting several different spots or going to new cities you’ve never been to, jot down the names of where you go. Walking on a new trail? Scribble down the name of it. Stopped at a gas station with a quirky statue you took a picture of? Make a note on your phone of what town it’s in. Pick up a map while touring New Orleans? Save it. You never know when you might want to look up the spot again or use a road name you’ve since forgotten. It isn’t hoarding if it’s research.
5. Stay Flexible:
Be sure to leave room in your itinerary for spontaneity. Maybe that looks like changing your route to visit a roadside attraction, or checking out a shop because a local was chatting about it. You’re much more likely to find hidden treasures when you’re willing to put away your plans and follow an occasional impulse.
6. Engage in the Moment:
Sometimes the best way to find inspiration is to forget about writing entirely and just live for a while. Try new foods, take a hike, soak in the sun by the ocean. Take some time to just relax, enjoy moments with your family and friends, and recharge. Writing requires us to constantly be pouring ourselves out in words; vacations are the perfect time for us to refill.
So how do we master vacationing as writers? We remind ourselves that it’s okay to not always be productive. It’s okay to forget to look for story ideas and clever phrases and descriptions in favor of being present. And in those moments when we let our guards down and simply live, we just might find ourselves filled with enough fuel for a blog post or two.