Traveling for work (the day job), can cut into a writing schedule.
Here are 10 tips to help you keep writing, or at least focus on writing-related things, while on the road.
1. Make a Writing Schedule Before You Leave
Making a writing schedule before you leave for a business trip ensures that you’ll actually write while away from home. Even if your schedule is “Write from 9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday,” scrawled on a Post-it note, that’s something.
Putting it in writing makes us more likely to follow through. It’s easy to want to relax after a hard day’s work in a different surrounding, but having a schedule makes you more likely to commit to writing, even when your routine is disrupted.
2. Write Early
If your evenings consist of dinner and then going back to the hotel room and working until bed, write when you wake up (if even for only half an hour). Every bit you write is progress, and when you’re on the road, sometimes the only quiet time you get is right after waking up.
Avoid the urge to check personal and – especially — work e-mail before writing. Keep your mind off work and put something down on paper. A quick blast of writing first thing in the morning is a great way to begin what will probably be a hectic day.
3. One Night
If you’re not sure what your work schedule will be like while on the road, vow to devote at least one night to writing. When that free evening pops up, you’ll be more likely to write if you’ve been looking forward to it.
You may not be able to write as much as you’d like while traveling, but one evening writing on the road is more writing than most people do even at home.
4. Don’t Work Too Hard After Work
I know people who work late with a client, go out to eat (to talk about work some more), and then return to the hotel to work late into the night. They wake up early and start working before eating breakfast.
While I typically work more hours when traveling for work, I make an effort to not burden myself too much in the evenings. I can always find something to keep me busy with my day job, but it’s called a day job for a reason: I don’t do it at night!
Work will be there in the morning. And the next morning. And the morning after that…
If given the choice to write or do extra work beyond my 40 hours, I’m going to go with writing.
You should, too!
5. Make Your Own Dinner
If possible, hit a grocery store, shop for a meal or two, and eat in your room a couple times during the week. The room I’m in this week has a small refrigerator and a microwave. I’m eating in my room a couple times to give myself more time to write.
Since I’m on the west coast this week, by the time I get back to my room if I go to a restaurant after work, it’s 7:00 or so. After chatting with my wife, it’s even later. Going straight to the hotel to eat and taking care of things back in Texas gives me more time to write while traveling.
Some people find the comfort of familiar surroundings the only place where they can be productive. If you have a hard time working on articles or stories on the road, use the time to plan.
If you haven’t started designing that Web site you keep talking about, a week away from home is a great time to start planning what you want. One of the things I’m doing this week is working on plotting; use the time away to tighten plot threads and fill in gaps. Plan how you’re going to promote yourself and your writing; brainstorm and plan your next batch of pitches for articles.
Just because you may not be able to write doesn’t mean you can’t work on writing-related tasks.
If you have a hard time writing something new while traveling for work, bring articles or manuscripts to edit.
Holing up in a hotel and editing is one of my favorite things to do. I can lay notecards on the floor and see what needs to be moved, changed, or still written. I can sit at the desk or on the couch and mark up manuscripts. (And not have to worry about red ink on furniture like I do at home.) I can sit back and read something I’ve written, just for the sake of reading.
A week away from home is a perfect time to edit. Give it a try next time you’re traveling for work…the momentum carries over when you return home!
8. Don’t Knock Yourself for Not Being as Productive as You are at Home
Fantasy: “I’ll be all alone in a hotel room with plenty of time to write. I will get soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much done.”
Reality: Chatting with family, eating out, and later evenings on site with the client take up more time than planned, leaving less time to write.
Don’t let that get to you.
The important thing is that you wrote something.
9. Revel in the Rough Draft
It’s easy to think of all the things you could be doing back home while on the road. There are bills to be paid and people to see. On the road, keeping up with everyday things and staying in touch with people can be difficult. It’s easy for the mind to focus on the things you’re not doing because your routine’s been disrupted.
That can lead to poor focus.
Accept this. Don’t worry if your writing isn’t up to the standard it usually is when you’re home and following your normal routine. Allow yourself to write rough while on the road — you can always fix things later.
10. Get Out
If you find it hard to write, edit, or even plan while on the road, use your time to see or do something new that helps you with writing.
When I’m traveling for work, I try heading in a day early so I have time to get out and relax or see something new before the week begins. Give yourself time to get out and listen to the way locals talk. Visit bookstores, or check out local libraries. Go to meetup.com and see if the town you’ll be in has a writer’s group you can visit. Check local newspaper entertainment guides to see if any interesting literary events are happening during your stay.
If nothing else, get away from work and the hotel room and see something new.
Even if I didn’t write this week, getting out and hiking on Sunday made this week away from home worth it!