Ask Dave: Maintaining Post-Travel Writing Momentum

“How do you push yourself to get back to your journal after a trip?”

— Priti in San Francisco via Twitter (@BeingPriti)

Finding time and motivation to write during a trip is a struggle for many travel journalers. Priti’s question hits on a different challenge: How do you keep journaling once you’ve returned home?

There are several reasons you might want to do this:

  • You never got around to writing about those last couple of days of your journey.
  • You speed-journaled successfully while traveling. Now you want to flesh out the details.
  • You fulfilled your primary speed-journaling goal of scribbling lots of details quickly. Now you want to shine those travel diaries into stories you can share with friends or publish professionally.

Maintaining journaling momentum after a trip can be tricky. We return to time commitments we don’t have on vacation, and often, a backlog of e-mails, phone calls, work, and household chores that piled up while we were away. In my book, Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals, I offer tips to help you motivate yourself while traveling. Some of those tips will work at home too:

Reward yourself after you write with something you like but can live without – coffee, ice cream, music downloads, a walk in the park, a movie… whatever makes you happy. The trick is make your reward something you enjoy but can live without. (If you can’t survive without caffeine, coffee won’t work.)

Write someplace fun! Just because you’re back at home doesn’t mean you have to write at home. Find a cool coffeehouse, a pub, or some other place that’s more fun to sit than your home. Find a familiar spot and keep going back, or make each writing session a local travel adventure in and of itself and go somewhere new each time you write.

Tie your writing to another daily event, such as brushing your teeth. Keep your journal with your toothbrush and don’t brush until you’ve written. Or block out time – 10 minutes or an hour – just before your favorite TV show comes on, and don’t turn on the TV until you’ve met your goal.

At home, there are additional things you can do to spur yourself to write:

Make appointments with yourself. Block time in your calendar and treat these appointments with the same respect you give to appointments with dentists, friends, or co-workers. (Translation: No flaking out at the last minute!)

Be realistic about how long you can write. Some people are successful binge writers, but most of us hit a wall after a certain amount of time – anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple of hours. If you’ve made a serious effort to write for the day, go do something else when fatigue sets in. That makes it less intimidating to continue the next day when your mind is fresh.

Find a motivation partner – even if they’re not a writing partner. Check in with a friend each day and let them know how much you’ve written. Better yet, schedule your writing time at the same time they’re scheduling something else. Do you know someone who wants to be more consistent about jogging, painting, gardening, or practicing the bagpipes? Agree on a time when you each do your own activity. Depending on that activity, you might do it together  – or if that isn’t practical, check in by phone. Chances are you know someone who struggles with procrastination on another matter. Invite them to partner with you. You’ll help them out and increase your writing productivity.

Dive in right away! Make writing part of your routine on your first few days home and it will be easier to keep going than if you allow yourself a break for a week or more. If you do lose that momentum, get back on track quickly.

You don’t have to catch up with everything at once. If writing is important to you, you owe it to yourself to give it as much priority as your other commitments. So even when life is hectic, as it often is after a vacation, still carve out writing time during the week – even if it means not answering all of your e-mails or doing all of your laundry on your first day home.

Blog! While I encourage people to keep their primary journals private (so that you don’t censor your thoughts), it can be fun to take those original journal entries and share parts online that others will be interested in, and that you’re willing to share. Let people know you’re blogging. When you know they’re waiting for more stories, you’ll feel friendly pressure  to keep writing.

Reframe your thinking. Let’s be honest: Even dedicated writers see writing as an arduous task at least some of the time. So don’t think of it as writing, and don’t think of it as work. Think of it as a mini-vacation, a chance to relive your travel memories and bring yourself back to the adventures you’ve had.

Momentum plays a big role. If you’ve run out of steam, the first attempts to get going again are usually the hardest. Once you get back into a rhythm, it gets easier.

Let me know how it goes, Priti! Thanks for your question, and good luck! (And, hey, everybody, if you’ve got other suggestions, we’d all love to hear them in the comments section below!)


Do you have a question about writing, travel, or anything else? Submit your questions on the Ask Dave page or send them via Twitter to @globejotter.

[Photo: Julie Jordan Scott]

Published on Tuesday, April 3, 2012

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