J. L. Harland • October 20th, 2019
We’ve both been away on holiday this summer. Different places and different purposes. It’s played havoc with the writing schedule in terms of getting those words on the page but in other ways it’s been good to have time to reflect. We both agree that writers are always writing. You may be walking along a path but in your head you’re somewhere else.
Do you ever talk to your characters? We’ve both spotted our protagonist, Elin, while we’ve been on our travels! Crazy? Probably – but that’s useful too. Not everyone takes their break in school holidays so, if you are planning an escape before the winter gloom descends, we’ve some ideas for you.
Here’s five ways we think you can benefit from holidays, short breaks and day trips.
- Going somewhere new gives your writing brain a boost. New smells, new experiences, new people – it’s all fodder for the next story. Keep a little notebook, or use your phone, to jot down observations. Speech, mannerisms, dress, way of walking. All these little things help to build ideas. You won’t meet people by sitting at home.
- Relaxation helps to distil ideas. Have you ever been stuck with a character, unsure what they are going to do next? The more you work at it the more impossible it seems to continue the story because of a ‘block’. Going on holiday or taking time out to try and forget about the problem often has the opposite effect. You find a solution without even trying.
- If you go somewhere completely different where the culture is alien it makes you more aware of your own culture and thoughts. If you are the ‘stranger in a strange land’ you are likely to have experiences that make you more aware of yourself, your thoughts, and your imagination. Ask yourself – ‘what if?’ What if I got lost in that alleyway? What if that woman is a spy? What if that child is abducted? What if I came and lived here?
- One of the great joys of a holiday is the chance to read. Choose some books randomly, maybe on topics or styles you normally avoid. Read a mix of fiction and non-fiction, children’s and YA fiction, romance if you’re a crime writer or vice versa. Extend your knowledge of writing styles by taking the first paragraph of one and writing the next paragraph in that style. (We did say that writers are always writing!)
- Sometimes our best ideas arrive when least expected and a break from the screen is the spark needed to bring those ideas to life. Travelling can be boring but not if you spend time people-watching or talking to strangers. Journeys often bring fodder for writers. The stranger on the train or plane will confide in the person next to them, knowing that their anonymity allows them that privilege. People’s life stories are amazing. One seventy plus lady explained that she was travelling back to her home design business in Australia. She’d started it in her fifties after she sold the sheep farm she’d been running for decades. Now there’s a saga!
Have fun and if you meet any of your characters while you’re away don’t forget to talk to them. You could learn something!