The Traveling Writer
My recent two week vacation to Peru was my first as a serious writer. By that I mean a writer who writes or edits every day. With two novels currently in the works and a third mid-way through edits, vacation became not only a debate about leaving my day job for 14 days, but also if I’d be leaving my writing.
That was a scary thought!
Yes, vacation is for family time as well as a time of discovery to reconnect with the world at large, nature, a sense of place, and loved ones. My primary goal for heading out into someplace new was not to spend it with my nose buried in my writing. BUT even life during travel has down times. And did I really think I wouldn’t have one single idea I’d need to write down in two weeks?
No, not really.
So the debate about vacation and writing became more along the lines of limiting the writing and what sort of writing device to take. For ideas I surveyed other writers on FB, Twitter, and Google+ to get a feel for how much writing a writer tends to accomplish on vacation and what they typically use to do so.
The results were varied and fun. More than one writer said don’t write: it is vacation! Others agreed: you are going to write. If you enjoy writing and it is a habit, dropping the day job for two weeks and visiting amazing places will not dry up creativity. So you can drive yourself batty wanting to write or you can facilitate it for those spare free moments by finding easy solutions to jotting down notes.
That last bit sounds a lot more like me. So I knew I would be heading out the door with something to write with/on. But what? These are the suggestions along with my personal pros and cons:
Notebook and Pencil
The classic writer’s tools: simply a few sheets of blank paper and a pencil or pen (I have always prefered pencil as it doesn’t run if the pages get soaked). And it is difficult to go wrong with something that has been used for centuries as the primary tools of the trade. No batteries needed. Works by candlelight/moonlight. Lightweight, which is nice for the sort of trip I had planned.
But there are some cons. At least for me.
The simplest is I prefer mechanical pencils. So I needed to make sure I had a full stockpile of lead and it was the appropriate size. Running out of pencil lead in Spain taught me that not every country is a fan of metal pencils!
Next up: I HATE transcribing. My first amateur novel was hand written. I never, EVER, did that again. I can’t handwrite fast enough to keep up with ideas and my handwriting sucks when I do try to keep up with ideas. I get frustrated at the amount of time it takes to type in something I already thought about and wrote when I could be on to the editing phase (rather than trying to decipher my handwriting) if I’d typed it in the first place. Writing a novel by hand is such a pet peeve of mine that I’d opt to not write rather than handwrite (at least as a short term solution. Let’s not get into the ‘stuck on a deserted island’ scenario!).
And a final problem: I’m in the middle of writing two books and editing the third. Everything is in electronic format. I’m not printing all preceding chapters or upcoming notes to haul with me so that I can handwrite. And let’s not get into editing, which, yes, I also do electronically. I never print anything. And the more I write, the less handwritten notes I use too.
OK, paper and pencil is not my favorite suggestion!
Really? It is probably because most of my laptop’s are old, and heavy, that this idea makes me shudder. Between the weight, the start-up time, and the oh so obvious presence that says “Yah, I’m on vacation, but I’m going to ignore you to write now.” to the rest of my family, I nixed this idea before I really considered it.
Maybe if I had one of those fancy, new lightweight little laptops that start with the blink of an eye, maybe then I would have said, great! But despite my electronic tendencies for writing, the last time I used a laptop for a novel was for final formatting prior to uploading (and now I have a publisher that handles that bit!) or for using Photoshop for covers (which, again, is no longer my realm of things I need to do).
So considering the ancient and pretty much unused status of laptops in my life: Nnope, not taking it. And that was before I got to TSA to remember that you needed to pull out and turn on any laptop. All other electronics were waved through. Whew!
For me I actually have an iTouch, which is simply the iPhone without the phone or camera part. I can still make calls via Skype. It stores all of my music. It times my tea. It is my alarm clock. I can check email on it when wifi is within reach. This was the option that made the most sense to me for life on the go, at least for a short vacation.
In an ideal world, I could load Kindle and Pages onto my little iTouch so that I could edit and even peck away a bit if I wanted to write. But it wouldn’t be obtrusive or heavy. It wouldn’t tell my beloved “I’m ignoring you and this country in favor of ideas in my head.” as loudly as an actual laptop. It is compact, useful, portable, and mine has a waterproof padded carrier. Perfect!
Except my iTouch is so old the OS is no longer updatable. And it has the lowest memory available for its generation. So even if the OS were still golden allowing me to download the new apps (it doesn’t currently have Kindle or Pages on it), the memory is so full with just the SONGS I have on it that I couldn’t install another program on it. The last time I tried to sync it I got an error because I’d purchased a song and it wouldn’t fit unless I deleted something. It has Skype, email, two games, notes, and songs on it. That’s about it.
Realizing how perfect it would have been to take my iTouch made me realize that I VERY much want a new one with a LOT of memory. Because it would have worked out so well to take it. But without that option, this was not going to be my on the go writing device.
This is the device I write on. And edit on. And tweet, FB, Google+, occasionally blog, surf the web, read novels, research ideas, talk to my parents, schedule meetings, and occasionally (rarely though since I’m usually busy) play games on. There were only two reasons I didn’t want to take my iPad. One: it is bigger than my iTouch. Two: it has EVERYTHING on it. Talk about a potential loss. Eeek!
At home, I have a lovely bamboo bluetooth keyboard for typing. It is my favorite keyboard ever. I actually look forward to using it! 🙂 But for vacation, if I took my iPad, the keyboard wasn’t going. If I’d looked into how cheap the roll up bluetooth keyboards were, I might have considered buying one and taking it. BUT… this was not a writing vacation! Maybe for my cruise in the spring though. Hmmm… Plus, if I had a roll up keyboard, man that would have made the iTouch even more perfect. Argh!
It was my Dad who convinced me to take the iPad. He pointed out everything was backed up. And yah, it is expensive but not THAT expensive. And its older too (see a trend there, do you?). Between iCloud and Dropbox, everything I write and own is backup up several times. Plus I had a shockproof case that could certainly make the traveling part safer. So iPad it was. I made sure everything was backup one last time, turned on the passcode, stuck it in the bounceable case, and packed it in the carry on.
I’m so glad I took my iPad. So, so glad! Between the flying, bus rides, quiet mornings or rainy afternoons, a chance to Facetime my mother on her Birthday, getting to see Born of Water hit #2 in fantasy on Amazon, and other little moments when grabbing my iPad and writing or editing for five minutes was highly rewarding and fit in the trip so well, it was perfect. I got to add new friends on FB while still on vacation, kept my email from overflowing, and took pictures (something my iTouch can’t do!) to share.
My husband’s iPhone worked well for similar things, but he’d pull out his iPad too if he were going to do something for more than a few minutes. When the internet went down at our hotel, and stayed down for days, I simply got used to taking a backpack with me around town, carrying my iPad in that. Which was also convenient for souvenirs.
I DIDN’T take the iPad though on the four day hiking trip to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail. I was happy that I did take my iTouch though – simply because we needed the alarm clock on it. I didn’t write at all during that four day session, but I had lots of oxygen deprived moments to ponder writing, life, and how pretty the flowers were along the trail!
I did take the notebook and pencil on vacation, which I used for blog ideas: things that didn’t need to be transcribed in other words. Plus, it was backup in case the iPad failed.
Overall, I did get a bit of editing and reading done during the first week, which was relaxing. And by the end of the second, as vacation wound down, the itch to write ramped up. I managed to touch type two handed on my iPad. It worked. Maybe not for a permanent solution, as I still love my keyboard, but for a travel option it worked. I wrote nearly two chapters as we made our way north from Peru to Maine.
The biggest thing is that writing and traveling do work together. Even for a vacation. A writer can’t leave behind the thoughts in their head, or suppress the new ones that develop in amazing places. At least not as easily as it is to leave behind a 9 to 5 job. In fact denying that those thoughts are there and growing can make the experience frustrating. The key is balance though!
So travel and write. But don’t forget to live! Don’t hide in the hotel and write, but finding ten minutes to put your soul on paper, or into electronically printed text, is a good thing.
How do you travel as a writer?