Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Traveling and Writing

I've been traveling quite a bit on the weekends lately. I drive 5 1/2 hours home to see my family and this will be the third weekend this month that I'm making the trip. My daughter had fall break all this week and she's been spending it with her dad. So while I really don't mind the drive too much (although this time I'm bringing books on CD to listen to!), I do mind how it leaves me unfocused on my writing.

It's not the driving that causes this - it's everything else. I usually spread myself pretty thin while I'm at home in an attempt to see everyone - my mom and her husband, my dad and his girlfriend, my grandmother, and my brother and his family. And when you only have two days to do all that (technically a day and a half because of that driving!), then I feel pretty frazzled by the time I get home, unpack, and prepare for the work week.

Here's my question. How do published authors on book tours keep writing and stay focused enough to write? I know when I went to a Stephanie Bond workshop, she said that she would write on the plane with her AlphaSmart, and undoubtedly in her hotel room. I'm sure other authors do the same.

But I can't write and drive at the same time - just doesn't work. And when I'm at home, I'm visiting my family, not writing.

I just wish that when I get back from my trips that I could focus on my novel and just seamlessly flow into it. So far, that hasn't been working.

Any tips?


  1. Just a thought, but maybe you could carry a small recorder. While you are in car driving let your character play in your mind and your record yourself telling their story.

    My dad records his sermons, and I often thought how that could translate in writing. Let me know if you try it and like it.

    Can you school me on AlphaSmart?

  2. I love Tamika's suggestion. I bought a tape player a year ago for about $30 and have thought about using it for at night when I wake up with a thought:)

  3. Tamika, the AlphaSmart is a portable word processor that uses AA batteries and runs forever. It's very simple to use, but I can't use it because the screen is so small. But I think it is very handy for lots of people.

    I have thought about the tape recorder thing - I often end up talking to myself when I'm all alone on the drive anyway! ;-)

    Terri - Yeah, a tape recorder might be better than my method - blindly scrambling on my nightstand for my pen and paper!

  4. since you don't have an mp3 player I don't know if you listen to or know about podcasts but you might check

    Mur (the host) has a lot of great tips

  5. I love long drives. I use them to let my mind go (usually inspired by the scenery), and I do a ton of writing-related thinking. Like you, visiting family does not allow me the opportunity to actually write while I'm actually visiting them, but the drive makes up for it. Usually when I get home, even when I'm tired, I'm ready to start writing just because I'm so inspired from the drive and whatever I was thinking about. I don't know if that's unusual or not, but drives have always been the best thinking time for me.

  6. I know someone who would record dictation in the car as she drove on her iPod, download the digital sound file, and then let her computer's voice recognition software transcribe it! Obviously, that's a LOT of tech, but depending on how much driving you do in the long run, it might be worth it.

  7. Tamika's idea sounds great! I think a recorder would help you at least a little. It sounds like there's no room for forcing yourself to write around all that.

    I'm so glad you mentioned an AlphaSmart! Mine was the thing that pushed my first novel to its end, because I wrote the last four chapters on Sally (yep, I named her) while traveling. It helped me force past the humped I'm become lodged in. I've been stuck again. Maybe I should pull Sally out and give her another try. Thanks for the idea!

  8. Chris - Great idea. I wonder if I could download them onto a CD? Might try it...

    DK - It's funny - when I first start driving the 5 hours, my mind is really focused on writing. But on the drive home, after visiting everyone, it's usually consumed with everything BUT writing. I think my brain is on overload!

    CKHB - See, that would be AWESOME for the computer to transcribe it! Although, I don't mind transcribing stuff myself... :-)

    Janna - I'm so glad you can use the AlphaSmart. I tried, I really did, but for some reason, my brain just could not get past that little screen. It stifled me for some reason. Frustrating, as the AlphaSmart is an amazing tool!

  9. First text messaging, now AlphaSmart. Then there's this thing call Kindle. I am woefully behind in gadget knowledge and usage . . . seriously, I'm not kidding.

    Oh well, I guess I'd just pull over and pull out my slate. ;-)

  10. Rebecca - I'm still resisting Twitter! And I don't have an iPod, either. ;-)

  11. Alas, no tips from me but *hugs* and I hope it gets better soon.

  12. I took one of Stephanie Bond's workshops too--talk about inspiring! She really got me to thinking about how to write more.

    I think one reason it's hard to travel is that it takes you away from your wip. I've found it to be true at least. When I finish writing for the day, I jot down a few key items that need to be written next. They help jog my memory when I've been gone. Other than that, I wish I had more advice, but I'm trying to figure it out myself!

    Good luck!

  13. Melissa - because my computer time is so limited, I write scenes in my head, then when I have the time, I transcribe. It's the only way I can really make it work with little people in my life. ;) I think your drives would be the perfect time to give yourself over to your imagination and work on some scenes.

    When I find I can't do that - I don't push it - it usually means I'm physically, emotionally, or spiritually tapped out and need to sleep, pray, and spend time with people. ;) But, when it does work, it's a great way to make use of spare moments.

  14. I like the idea of using a recorder and have actually used one in the past. But only a few times. It's very difficult for me to focus on writing when I'm visiting family, but I find that the hard part is just getting started. Once I'm into the process, then I'm fine. Or sometimes I would set the alarm for a half hour or hour earlier and get up early and write then.

  15. Go over the story line again and again in your head to cement things, then dictate notes to your little daughter secretary?

  16. Thanks, L.T. Hugs are appreciated!

    Jill - Good idea to jot down some ideas. Last time, I quit writing in the middle of a sentence, so maybe that will get the words flowing next time. :-)

    Robin - Excellent advice. And you're right - the drives are a great time to work on scenes, plot problems, etc., and I've done that lots of times. The problem is that my head is crammed full of stuff on the way home from my visit with everyone. I think I need to learn some head-clearing techniques!

    Laurie - I usually give myself permission not to think about writing when I'm with my family and I think that's ok. I just wish I could jump into it as soon as I got home. I guess I need to clear my mind somehow. :-)

    Angie - I do need to go over my story line lots of times since I am frequently away from it. Once I have that firmly in place, things are much easier.


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