Friday, January 10, 2014

Travel to write; Write to travel

We think of traveling as the window we jump through to give flight to our imagination. Getting out of the routine, into a different culture, where the stars in the night are strange and the trees stand funny. We find it exciting because we can use all of those details in our stories. We can add a dash of South African accent to our villain or describe the magnificence of Victoria Falls through our character.

But (and you knew there was a but coming) why doesn’t anyone talk about what a time sucker travel is? First, you spend time planning. Then, you spend time budgeting. Finally, there is all the packing, visa paperwork and general pre-travel jitters. You have spent the better part of six weeks getting ready to travel. Once you are at your destination, which in my case was the astoundingly blue-sky azure-ocean Cape Town, you don’t do much else but gape and sigh and think how lucky you are to be alive.

When you return from your two week holiday, it’s time to catch up at work, clean up the yard, and before you know it, it’s Holiday season and you haven’t met your daily writing quota (for weeks) or posted a blog for a couple of months.

So how do you guard your writing time? How do we take time off to recharge ourselves, and still keep up the productivity? Do we make a choice? What do we choose? In my travels I saw awesome whales, met the most generous people, discussed with great energy Nelson Mandela’s legacy and… didn’t write a word.  Because of the new things I learned and experienced I’m behind on everything else. If life was a race, I’m really very behind.

So yes, traveling is expensive. It’s a time sucker. It will make us fall back on our oh-so neat goals but there’s also just something about it, something we can’t quite pin our finger on that makes us keep taking these journeys. So how do we keep sane while still feeding our soul?

1. Be realistic. Clear out your schedule. Accept you are going to focus on honing your imagination. This is not the time to be focused on your writing goals. See the bigger picture. You need to nurture your soul in order to come back and write those stories.

2. Prioritize. When you return, and you have caught up with those pesky chores, be true to yourself. Cut out those dinners and Sunday brunches for a couple of weekends. Microwave some of your meals. Ignore the laundry. Write again. In a few weeks, you’ll get your mojo back and more secure in your routine (and have time again for Bowling Fridays).  

3. Talk to others who have traveled. Take time to seek out people with similar experiences. See how they viewed their journey. How did they see it differently? Gaining self-awareness is the best thing about travel. It gives you time to nurture yourself, continue to build our awareness of human nature, the world around us and how we interact with it.

These once in a lifetime experiences are what refreshes our imagination and gives us new energy to continue to move forward (especially, when we don’t see an end in sight or a publication offer or when our characters have got us in a real bind). Bon Voyage!

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