How to Travel as an Author (Tuesdays with Ana)

As the summer draws to a close and students return to school, this author is grudgingly packing her suitcase. You may have noticed fewer blog entries for the past while, and you may have noticed less interaction in general. I’ve spent most of my summer living out of a suitcase, conducting research and interviews. In a happy serendipity, I’ve been able to do research both for my day job and for my authoring. Look for a travel-abroad story coming to you…oh, whenever I get it finished. πŸ™‚ I’ve got a spunky heroine named Indigo who is different from any other character I’ve ever written…except (of course) she enjoys a spank or two. As I’ve been traveling and enjoying my time abroad, I’ve had great fun mapping out the places Indigo might visit and planning her fictional itinerary. I feel like a travel agent. πŸ™‚

I’ve found that the suitcase life is both great and terrible for writing. Great because I experience something new every day, meet new people, and have been soaking in the sights, culture, and food of the places I’ve been. It’s terrible because the last thing I want to do on a limited itinerary is hole myself up in a room and write! I miss the days when I wrote longhand in portable spiral notebooks. I’ve become so attached to my laptop that I no longer can think as slowly as my pen or pencil writes. I jot down a few notes, only to become impatient and give up. I keep telling myself I’ll bring a notebook to a lovely place and write while enjoying the scenery, but every time the book stays in my bag. I’ve tried to bring my laptop, but that poses other challenges. It’s heavy. It gets hot if it’s on my legs. After a while, it needs an electrical outlet. It’s pathologically sensitive to moisture (already lost a computer keyboard to water once this year and not wanting to repeat the experience, thank you very much!), so I have to be on constant guard.

I’ve found something interesting as I travel by foot, bus, metro, and train this summer:

Instead of writing, I’ve been living.

While I usually jot mental notes to myself or scribble lines on scraps of paper, this summer I’ve settled myself into my seat and watched people as they get on and off public transportation. What do they wear? How do they talk and interact with others? What do people do and say to indicate someone is a stranger, a friend, or someone known but disliked? What kinds of attitudes and ways of behaving are taken for granted?

Once when I was riding the subway, a youngish man (perhaps mid-20s) picked the insides of twistable color pencils. He pulled them all out and played with them. When someone tried to sit next to him, he erupted with outbursts. It’s funny how something might have happened like that at home, but I would have been too busy with my schedule and duties to notice. Instead, because I was on traveler’s time, I took in every word, every gesture, and every reaction from others in the subway car.

Perhaps Indigo will meet a crank on her travels.

For most of my trip, I’ve been frustrated with myself for not writing enough. I have deadlines, darn it. I have professional obligations and promises and…

Yet I think that sometimes we need a growing season. Traveler’s time, as I’ve come to think of it, is when going to the local market takes forty-five minutes because you find a neat shop that sells ice-cream sodas that turn out to be the best ice-cream sodas you’ve ever had in your life. You end up chatting with the owner, saying you’re visiting, and talking about mutual experiences traveling. Then you go to the market and marvel at the luscious piles of farm-fresh produce. Traveler’s time is when you really should be home and in bed, but on your way out of a music hall for a concert you come across a light-and-music water fountain where children frolic and entire families have brought blankets to sit on while watching the display. You linger, even as you wonder whether the last bus has already left, and take in the details. This is how one little girl tips her head backward in order to plead for money for cotton candy. This is how another little boy sits on his tricycle, pretending to pedal while his mom pushes him with the handle on the back.

I’ve never lacked for ideas when writing, but this summer has been a time to toss experience after experience into a wonderful mishmash that will eventually settle down into ideas for future stories. I come back to my room each day and pound on my keyboard to decapitate adverbs and pummel repetitions of “hand” and “look,” but underneath a part of me realizes that nitpicking is only one part of writing. I strive every day to improve my technique, of course (as anyone would do), but these months spent stretching my comfort zones have left me with something else.

I’ve learned a few things about writing this summer, but the last one surprised me.

How to travel as an author?

Put down the pen and live.


28 thoughts on “How to Travel as an Author (Tuesdays with Ana)

  1. pao says:

    Is this the new book? πŸ™‚ I think this has to be one of my favourite posts from Ana. This sounds like a really refreshing summer!


  2. siobhanmuir says:

    Stopping to smell the roses and see the world, really see it. It’s amazing what comes to light. I still write in my notebook because I don’t really want the passengers in the plane beside me to read over my shoulder (given what I write) πŸ˜‰ Folks don’t have a problem reading someone’s private computer, but they still shy away from the “diary”, lol. Glad you had a “clear” summer, Ana. πŸ™‚


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I’m the opposite! I feel as if people read over my shoulder if it’s a notebook but that I can hide my screen if it’s a computer. Maybe I should have worried the other way around. Now this is an interesting topic for discussion. πŸ˜€


  3. SunnyGirl says:

    Good for you. Just enjoying living every day is good for the soul and what’s good for the soul is good for every part of you and everyone around you.

    Take time for breathing in the beauty of life around you. LIVE


  4. Thianna D says:

    So that’s why you have been so quiet:) And I’m with you on the going from a spiral notebook to my computer. Now, writing via paper seems ancient. I just can’t write by hand fast enough to keep up. Plus, I end up with overly achy fingers as I tend to grip the pen. πŸ™‚

    Looking forward to hearing more about Indigo


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Me, quiet? Never! πŸ™‚

      I think writing by hand can be a good discipline when it helps us not be distracted by internet and games. It takes practice, though, to write by hand the way we used to. I don’t miss the huge calluses on my finger, but I do miss the meditative quality of writing by hand.

      I think you’ll like Indigo!


  5. PK Corey says:

    Excellent advice ‘put down the pen and live’ I’ve said that to Nick about his camera a time or two – quit taking pictures and look at it! Usually I’m writing in my head even as I do other thing and sometimes I do like to write it out longhand – but when I do NO one but me could ever read it (that’s intentional) so I have to get to the computer fairly quickly or I won’t remember what it says either. Make your deadlines, but keep living.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Oh, yes. Photography, writing, painting…so many of these skills require us to step outside of our living to do them, but we have to participate in life in order to capture it. It’s both frustrating and wonderful.

      Deadlines. Sigh. That’s a dirty word these days.


  6. minellesbreath says:

    I love this. For a while I was standing behind the camera and missing so much. Now I try and absorb…and revisit in my mind to create. I am so happy you are enjoying EVERY SINGLE moment.
    Cannot wait to read about Indigo.


  7. Roz says:

    Wonderful post Ana, I’m glad you had such a wonderful summer enjoying your travels. It’s great to take time to really stop and notice what is going on around you.

    I absolutely love your words “sometimes we need a growing season”. Looking forward to hearing more about Indigo!



  8. catrouble says:

    Hey Ana…So happy you’ve had such a wonderful time in your travels! Looking forward to hearing more about Indigo and hearing more from you! πŸ˜‰

    Hugs and Blessings,


  9. awesomesub says:

    Hi Ana, I love what you wrote here, and it is so true. Going out, travelling, looking at what people do, and doing something is pure joy, and it would be great if more people experienced this. πŸ™‚



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