I recently did a podcast about business travel because I, and the friend I do the podcast with, have each recently traveled for work. A recent trip brought him to New Orleans, and I spent a week in Los Angeles.
I know many people who live for business travel. Hell, I work for a large software company serving the travel industry. I have spent months in other places for work. (Don’t ever want to do that again!)
But I am not much of a fan of business travel. I love spending time with my wife, and…I like my writing routine.
Business travel has always interrupted that routine.
I Don’t Write Much on the Road
Usually when I travel for work, there’s more work to be done than usual. Add to that sometimes traveling with coworkers who want to go out for dinner to talk even more about work (ugh!), or clients or remote coworkers who want to show you around, and it’s hard to find time to write. Then it’s often early mornings into the office and working in some capacity well into the evening…even if that “work” is just hanging out with coworkers.
Rarely when I’m traveling for work do I get much writing done.
My LA Week
The week I was in Los Angeles, aside from one evening hanging out with Mark Hosack (recently interviewed right here), all time away from the job site was mine. And because I was a couple hours west of home, by the time I chatted with my wife before I ate dinner, she’d already finished dinner and was settling into her evening.
By the time I finished eating, I had hours before me to write. For once, I completed quite a bit of writing on the road.
(I packed very light, so I had no shoes appropriate for the gym, but I did get out and walk during lunches — so moving my body around a bit was covered as well.)
A Different Approach
I went into the LA trip with a different writing plan. Usually, I try continuing my normal writing routine at home — but waking up early and losing yourself in a story isn’t as easy when you’re thinking about going downstairs to find food and all you have to do before heading into the job site.
So I planned to plot and work on chunks of writing. I planned to work on the necessary work, but not the serious work requiring complete silence, focus, and routine.
And because of that approach, I was able to prepare myself for the more serious writing when I got home…as well as knocking out a couple thousand-word story for the Halloween episode of Not About Lumberjacks one evening.
All That Said…
Despite finally having a productive writing schedule during a business trip, traveling for work is still not a thing I crave. It’s not something I entirely loathe, but given a choice, I prefer home — or recreational travel with my wife.
But I know because of what I’ve chosen to do for a living that I will see more airports, rental cars/shuttle buses, and hotel rooms. I know there will be future trips in which I’m expected to hang out into the evening talking about work…or working late in my hotel room. But there will also be trips in which I’m not working beyond the time in a local office, and I think I’ve finally figured out how to stay busy on the road.
Unless I’ve checked into a hotel room for the purpose of distraction-free writing, I know I will not produce serious work in hotel rooms on business trips. But at the very least, I’ve discovered they are not bad places for plotting and planning so that when my plane lands back home and I wake up and rise early from my own bed, I’ll be even more prepared for the serious work that matters most.
Most of the writing I do when traveling is tinkering or pencil work. I rarely have a sustained burst of inspiration that allows me to write new material, beyond making notes. I did write an entire short story once during a weeklong stay at a bed and breakfast. The story was even published.