Like many writers, I get stuck. I can sit and stare at a keyboard for hours, or at least be near the keyboard, blocked, trying to get something written, and either nothing happens, or I keep tossing out what I have done because it isn’t what I consider acceptable.
But once I’m on vacation, I can write. No problems at all.
For years now, I have blogged our family vacation without fail. It’s the one time of year that I know I can get something written, even if it isn’t one of the projects that I always have on my back burner. I write a daily update on what we are doing, what we are seeing, and it’s really pretty good.
So why the difference?
I asked myself this as I came back from our last vacation. How can I translate my relative ease of writing about my family to the other work that I want to get done? Looking back, I can see myself doing the following things:
Set my Gear
On every vacation, I have a laptop of some sort (usually something older) that is specifically setup for my writing. I prep it with blogging software, something to sync photos, and connectivity so I can post online. More often than not, this is a slower device, or even a tablet and external keyboard. It doesn’t have all my regular computing junk, mostly just what I need to get my writing done.
Have a Goal
On vacation, I know that I have to write up what we did every day. No more, no less. I pick one, maybe two photos, then I write about what we did. This is fast, hammering writing. I don’t clean it up much, I don’t edit it. I just let myself go, get it done, and push it live. I figure I can always fix it later. (and sometimes I do.)
During the day, as we are walking around, I always have a Field Notes notebook and pen in my shoulder bag. (I also always have a shoulder bag with various travel supplies. Not really sure if that makes a difference, but it’s on my list to examine.) I take notes of what we did during the day. I don’t try to pick out the most interesting things we do. I’m not trying to judge or rate it, but just get a quick line on what’s up and what we did so I can remember later.
Plan to Write
I go with an expectation that I will need some time and space each day, or every other day, to sit and get my writing done. My wife expects it. My daughter expects it. If I don’t do this, I get funny looks, and a reminder to go do my writing. My head naturally falls into this space.
I look back and compare this to my home setup for writing. I write when I get time. It isn’t a top priority. I sit down and try to think of things fresh off the top of my head. I don’t regularly make notes of ideas when I get them. I have no set times to write. My main computer is a desktop in my home office that has all my other work, mail, games, and my desk is stacked with all the work that I need to get done at home during the week. An easy distraction.
Now that I look at it, no wonder I can’t get anything done.
So now that I am back home, I have set myself a challenge to see if I can adapt my vacation skills to the rest of the year. So far here is what I’ve done:
I have a desktop computer for my games and general stuff, so I setup a writing kit. I have a messenger bag with a Notepad, Pens, needed cables, and now a permanent older laptop dedicated for writing. (I now use a Surface. Pretty advanced and light. also cheaper now that new ones are out.) I can grab this bag when I am out and about, keep it in the car, and be prepared to write in my downtime. Or I can take it somewhere dedicated as well.
Do something every other day. If it isn’t writing, it should be organizing my writing. Reading about writing. Outlining my ideas, something. Focus on keeping pace for now. I have also set a goal-for-a-goal to make a block of time for a writing stretch. Do NaNoWriMo, pick two weeks for editing old work exclusively. Pick a topic/event and do a week-long blog series on it. Then cycle back to smaller goals for a bit and reflect.
At work, I put a journal on my desk with the intent of writing what was work at the end of the day (a suggestion from Lifehacker.) That’s a start of regular notetaking. There’s no wrong way to do it, other than not doing it. I put smaller Field Notes in both my briefcase for work, and in my writing bag. I need to make the habit to take ideas down when I have them, and reference them in my writing times.
The harder part is carving out the time. I’m grabbing a little time in the evenings when everyone else has gone to bed. Taking the bag along when I wait for my daughter at dance. Eventually, I need to set specific days for bigger work, but I’m not there yet. I just need to set the momentum rolling to start.
The planning is easy, now I need to write…