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?)

I finished two books during our road trip last month. Both were audiobooks I listened to while driving. Apart from that, I read exactly two pages. (I brought four physical books with me.)

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.

Though I did a terrible job of journaling during my trip, I did take time to jot down some descriptions of beautiful scenery like this.

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.

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This picture is from South Pass Historic Site in Wyoming. I forgot to write about it in my journal, but that’s okay since I still have visual records of our visit.

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.

For example: I found this awesome library sign during our trip. I can’t for the life of me remember what town it’s in. Were we in Utah? Colorado? Who can say? If only I’d made a note…

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.

My brother and I ended up in Blackwater, MO because he recognized the name from a video game. It ended up being one of our favorite stops of the trip.

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.

A gorgeous oak tree in Congo Square, New Orleans. Just before taking this picture, my brother and I ate delicious Cajun food and strolled around the French Quarter.

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.

About the Author:

Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog, Litwyrm, she writes about all things bookish and especially enjoys discussing the truths conveyed through stories. In her spare time, she likes woodcarving, bookbinding, and cooking random recipes from Pinterest.

7 comments

  1. What a great post. Sometimes we just need permission to enjoy the moment. We made our first trip to the OBX this summer. We saw lighthouses, wild horses, climbed dunes and enjoyed an outdoor drama. I didn’t read or write. I bought a book I have yet to finish and I brought home all the tourist pamphlets. My plan is to use the pamphlets and pictures I took to revisit the trip and write. Maybe that will happen when winter sets in. For now I’m enjoying the memories.

    1. Trips always make me want to write about the places I visit. But I can’t seem to publish books about those places! Still I think we benefit from thinking deeply about the history of those faraway places. Thanks for sharing your vacation through words and pictures. Your tips are helpful too!

  2. I always take books and magazines with me, and then I bring them home again, unread for the most part. LOL But the dream never dies, and I always have hope that I’ll relax and read. I take lots of photos too, and they help me remember where I’ve been and what I saw, and even how I felt when I saw it.

  3. This is fantastic! I also like to take the main character from a book I am writing, or want to write, and imagine him/her in settings in places I am visiting. I also love history and often dig into the local history when we vacation. This helps generate more story ideas for me. Getting out of the familiar really helps inspire ideas.

    1. I love the idea of imagining you main character in those settings! What a great mental exercise! And digging into local history is a great idea too. I’ll definitely have to start doing those activities. 🙂

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