The 4 Rules of Writing on the Road

Ah, vacation.  That dreamy time when time slows to a crawl and you can leisurely sit back and create the world’s next great bestselling novel.  The muses love a brain at rest and the thoughts flow like water on the page, sheer poetry with every phrase.

Then you wake up.  There’s a seatbelt crease in your face, something sticky on your notebook, and shrill kid screams filling the air.  The inspiration that was certain to arrive is instead splattered like a bug on the window, forever lost in a blur of freeway and noise.  The daydream of having hours at a time during the long drive to finally work on that manuscript, gone.  What happened?

Reality – cold hard reality.  The fantasy of taking your writing with you on the road is far from the truth.  Especially if you are traveling with young kids.

I’ve come up with a few guidelines to help those in a similar situation cope:

  1. Be realistic! Working in a noisy moving vehicle is about as pleasant as stubbing your toe.  Even if you are not prone to motion sickness, spending significant time writing with your head down is not a good idea.  Know that fellow passengers, noise,  motion, and the landscape whizzing by are all very distracting.  At your destination you might find a few quiet hours here and there to work, but don’t count on it.  Fatigue from travel and fun, not to mention sharing living space will make it really hard to focus.  So, what do you do?
  2. Prioritize. Although your list of  “to do’s” might include writing a bunch of blog posts, adding a few chapters to the manuscript, finding new blogs to befriend, and reading those novels that you brought; you won’t be able to do all of it.  At least you won’t if you travel like my family.  If you’re vacationing alone and all you have planned is sitting in your cabana on the beach, fountain pen in hand, then you are reading the wrong post.  Identify which things must be done and don’t sweat the rest.
  3. Compromise.  You might have a set of goals that you would like to maintain during the trip; like a certain number of words written or a certain number of posts generated.  For the trip you are allowed to redefine or recreate those goals.  The only thing I knew I had to do was get out my regular posts, had I been more organized I would have written them before leaving.  Instead, I chose to let my wonderful blogging friends do the work for me and reblogged posts that I found interesting.
  4. Reward yourself. Writing on the road is a challenge.  It might be tempting to spend every free moment working, but remember that this is your vacation.  You deserve to indulge a bit as well.  Bring that juicy novel that you’ve been waiting to read, load up your audio device with some great music and podcasts, and be sure to spend time with your feet up!

Happy Writing!

About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, was published in November 2018 and rereleased in Jan 2020. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.
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11 Responses to The 4 Rules of Writing on the Road

  1. jenniferneri says:

    i had to read this after the teaser came to my inbox – wanted to see if it could apply to my everyday life – totally does, especially the part about working in constant noise (2 young kids plus a baby!). something to remember your 4 points – thanks!

    • tsuchigari says:

      As I was finishing I had the same thought! There really isn’t that much difference between being at home and running errands and being out on a trip and doing activities.

  2. nrhatch says:

    Lovely post, Jo!

    Especially enjoyed: “There’s a seatbelt crease in your face, something sticky on your notebook, and shrill kid screams filling the air.”

    I bring a journal on vacation with me, so that I can save ideas to flesh out later.

    That’s it.

    I leave the rest behind while vacationing away from my keyboard.

  3. oldancestor says:

    You didn’t REALLY think you were going to get any writing done under those circumstances, did you?

    See, nrhatch. This is why I can’t be an optimist like you. Since I “know” my plans won’t work out, I’m much less disappointed when everything goes to hell. Being a pessimist is a psychological self-defense mechanism.

    Tsuchigari, one idea for getting a bit of writing done as a parent: Sometimes I take my laptop in my son’s bedroom when I put him to bed. He’s quiet as a mouse knowing Dad is sitting there typing away by nightlight (much more so than if I put him to bed and went to write somewhere else). Pretty soon he falls asleep, and I get a couple of pages written.

    • nrhatch says:

      Well, let’s call you a pessimistic opportunist . . . that’s quite a trick you’ve developed while putting your son to bed. : )

      Plus, you can meditate to his slow and easy breathing and he enters the Land of Nod.

    • tsuchigari says:

      A part of me was really hoping that I would be able to sneak in a few more hours, the other part of me sat back and laughed at the first for being a silly. My darling son won’t settle down if I hang around or I would definitely try writing in his room. Now that school is starting that will buy me a few more hours to work on Mr. Manuscript during the week.

  4. Lua says:

    I’m on the road right now and trying to write- not an easy job! 🙂 I think being realistic is very important- I’m not expecting to return home with a novel.
    Great tips Jodi and great timing hehe

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