Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Taking a Writer's Staycation

Travel is great for writers. The more you see and experience, the more it informs your writing. But successful travel, especially with a family, depends heavily on the convergence of many factors, including work schedules, finances, school programs and projects, dog kennels, cat sitters, and how long it has been since someone in the household last threw up. It’s a miracle anyone goes anywhere. Especially if an airport is involved. (Thanks, TSA.)

Well, you think, drumming your itchy writer fingers on the table, the alternative to traveling is staying home, and what’s fun and inspiring about that? My answer is: nothing. Please go directly to YouTube and spend the next 7 ½ hours watching instructional videos for making decorative door wreaths out of the junk in your recycle bin.

If you didn’t take the bait, congratulations! You are a true writer and/or your recycle bin is empty. So I will share a little secret: you can find plenty to write about without jetting off to Reykjavik. In fact, I once spent the better part of three years doing one new thing in my hometown every week. It was a great way to renew my enthusiasm for my community, and it gave me lots of material.

If you’re interested in mining your location for inspirational nuggets, I have a few tips:

Research. Go to your local tourism website and print out a list of the top ten activities. Now, wad that into a ball and throw it on the floor for your cat to play with. Instead, pick up a real newspaper and a couple of those ubiquitous free arts and culture publications. Make a list of possible activities that will challenge you to stretch your imagination and comfort zone. If you’re anxious about going solo, find a willing friend/spouse/child to accompany you.

Ditch your car. No, don’t actually drive into a ditch. (Writers…so literal.)  Leave it behind and walk, which helps exercise both your body and your amazing powers of observation. Bring a notepad and camera (my preference) or use a smart phone to document your adventures. Pictures and notes are indispensable memory joggers when you finally quit procrastinating (ok, maybe that’s just me) and sit down to write.

Follow your nose. Venture into establishments you’ve never visited, and talk to people you encounter as you go out and about. Different neighborhoods, whether ethnic or not, often have vastly different vibes, especially in urban settings. Take advantage of the variety available in your area. Feel free to eat, drink, and be merry, all in the name of investigation.

Always mind your surroundings. Ra’s al Ghul’s advice to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins applies to all of us. Your safety is paramount, so don’t stray so far off the beaten path that you end up somewhere you shouldn’t be. If you really want to get nitty-gritty, schedule a ride-along with your local PD.

Now, get out there and find your inspiration! 

What tips would you add for infusing your writing with local flavor?


  1. What a terrific post, Jenny! I've often read that writers who feel they need to travel to write are, equally often, procrastinating because writing is much more an inner journey than an outer one.

    But in all of my reading of books about writing (and I do love to read those books!) I've never read any of the suggestions you've offered here.

    The crazy thing is that while I do research in the way you've suggested and I do get out of my car and walk in nearby towns, I've never really thought about how those experiences could enrich my writing. Duh. It's time, past time, to start carrying my notebook and camera.

    Thanks, Jenny.

  2. Hi Karen. I'm sorry it took me so long to get to your comment! I love your point about how writing is more an inner journey than an outer one. I'm going to use it in another post :-)