I’m writing this post in a hurry because I am in the midst of writing dilemma #2 myself. I am suppose to be packing, doing some last minute snack shopping (who can eat that stuff offered on the road), cleaning up for the house sitter, and in general, getting ready to go on a trip. Yet, I’m determined to get a post written before I leave.
I am a traveler by nature. I love going, especially if it means seeing new places, seeing old friends, or visiting family. You wouldn’t consider me a world traveler simply because I don’t have the financial resources for that sort of jet-setting. Still, every chance to go someplace new offers a different perspective, whether it be your own, a stranger’s, or a family member’s. Every new experience is worth writing about.
Lunch in Holly Spring, MS can offer as much inspiration as Paris, France. Well, that may be a stretch, but not much of one. So much depends on one’s state of mind, open heart, and willingness to be present wherever you are. And you have to carry that notebook, that ipad, that laptop in your luggage. Then you have to use it. Taking notes as you roll or fly along is a viable option to writing long treatises. Jot down what you hear at the table next to you at the diner or the fine restaurant. Then compare your notes. Great characters are born from simple eavesdropping.
You have to stay somewhere, so there will be time in the motel room at the end or beginning of each day to capture some of the most memorable moments of your trip. Time is of the essence; I don’t care if you’re 15 or 75. We never know how long we have here on this wildly spinning planet and the time we take to jot down our memories are always worth it. I sometimes think that if I were to have a bed-bound illness, reading over the memories I’ve captured on the trips I’ve taken will be a great joy. I consider memories and the words they inspire sacred. Let’s face it, a lot of the world’s great works are based on memories. Consider the New Testament, written long after Jesus was gone from the earth. That’s just an example, so don’t get nervous, readers of other or no religious persuasions.
I’ll be taking my laptop and my notebooks and pens. I keep a notepad small enough to fit in my backpack so it can go anywhere with me. I take a larger journal for those lazy mornings with coffee in the Hampton Inn. The laptop can go to the bookstore or coffee shop in the town square with me.
When traveling alone, I’m famous for pulling off the road at a nice little roadside or state park and writing about what is found there. Just ask my friends and family, who are at the other end of the road usually waiting dinner on me. Leigh has learned not to wait. We always eat popcorn and apples when I get home from a trip.
If I’m traveling with someone, I utilize the power of collaboration. Challenge each other to write a song, tell stories, share metaphors and images. Driving through south Arkansas with my parents recently, they told me stories about their childhoods that the passing scenery inspired: my dad’s job as a teen working on a cookie delivery truck and staying in a small hotel in Magnolia, AR, which is still there. My mom’s long walk from her house to the small town of Rosston–a 4 mile round trip because her mom needed something from the store. She was eight years old and it was a huge adventure to be out on her own. They are in their 80’s now and these memories are precious indeed.
My friend Katey Schultz (pictured above with her car, the Claw) may be the best example of the writing traveler. She has been at it for nearly two years, and her writing gets better and better. Through her, I am able to visit places I won’t see in this lifetime. That is a special gift. You give it to others when you share what you’ve written while you’re away–the best souvenir is taking others to places they won’t see without you.
Next time you hit the road, don’t forget your writing tools. They are every bit as important as your camera and your underwear. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then paint yours with words. When you’re a writer, traveling is no excuse for not writing. In fact, it’s a good reason to keep that pen moving. And don’t forget to send a few postcards!