An interesting article looked into why people cry more on airplanes. While there are many theories, one stood out to me.
“We are so overtaken by anxiety, loneliness, and fear that we may feel helpless. Since action is a little limited on an airplane (you can’t text your friend to come hangout, or go see a movie with your family, for example) we tend to cry instead.”
This sense of solitude enables the perfect environment for writing. The best writing comes when emotions are high, there’s significant time, and there’s limited distractions. So, instead of travel being seen as a detriment to your day, see it as the most inspiring time to write your next masterpiece.
Here’s how I focus on creating content while getting to my next destination.
Create a “Travel” folder
Some may pack extra shoes, hair products and chargers, I pack materials for writing (bonus: this weighs nothing!). When a trip is about a week away, start a folder where you can drop ideas, documents, research and other materials to prepare for your writing. I’m heading to New York City in a few days, so I created this “Train” folder. Inside resides a few article to reference, a few semi-started blog posts, an ebook which I’ll use to draft blog posts and social posts, and more. This way, when I get on the train, I’ll have all of the materials I need to start writing.
Lose the Internet
The Internet is amazing — I cannot do my job without it —however, it’s distracting. Whether it’s email, IM or just getting lost somewhere on Google search page 3, it’s going to hinder you from getting writing done. If you have all of your materials in your Travel folder, you won’t need the Internet to pull information. So lose it for the plane, train or boat ride.
Cancel out the noise
Along with Internet comes other distractions, such as that stranger sitting beside you yearning to be your new best friend for the next four hours. I love meeting new people, but if you need to get work done, slip in those earbuds (or a pair of these Bose noise-cancelling headphones) and get the work done. When you do, you’ll be so productive that you’ll have hours leftover for your new bestie.
Don’t bring anything else
Perhaps the 5-year-old Amanda is still inside my head, but before I focused on writing, I used to bring lots of stuff to do while traveling. Snacks, puzzles, games on my phone, books, even an entire coloring book with colored pencils. This may kill time and change up the monotony of a six-hour flight, but it distracts from writing. Instead, bring only your laptop (with that Travel folder inside). This forces you to get the work done, and once you get into it, time will fly faster than 570 miles an hour.
Read to get inspired
Now you’re ready to dive into that folder. It serves as a to-do list, reminding you of all of the materials you need to reference for your work. That’s great, but you need to dig into that folder to freshen your memory and get energized by the projects again. Read through all of the materials, even if they don’t relate to the same project. As you read them, you’ll get inspired by which project to take on first. One will grab you. That’s your first gazelle to take down.
Write it all out
Whether it’s an ebook, a blog post or a tweet, I always take the same approach —write like a fiend. Spill it all. Let loose. Write for 15-20 minutes straight without thinking, editing or stopping. This will get the mental garbage out of your head, so you can get into the good stuff. My English professor called it, “writing your way into the story.” Don’t worry, you can delete it later. It’s a great exercise for you, and on the flip side, some of it might be your best work.
After you’ve written a few paragraphs — or even the entire piece — it’s time to edit. I recommend reading aloud, despite the new neighbors and passing flight crew sensing the crazy. This is important because it helps you hear how sentences form and flow together.
Walk away…then publish
After significant time writing, we get too vested. We’re ingrained in the work, and we’re in the zone. This is not the time to publish. It’s time to stop. Feel free to pull out that airline magazine or start a conversation with your bestie. You need a break from writing and editing before marking it complete. When you board your next flight, get to your hotel, or find time at the office, re-read that masterpiece, finalize and hit publish.
What other tips do you have for writing while traveling? I have a few trips on the horizon, so I’m waiting to embark on new writing ideas.