In this series, Beth Barany and I continue to share with you the magic of travel and writing. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, novels, short stories, personal essays or keep journals, we offer information, tips, techniques and tools for making the most of your travel for your writing. Look for posts from us every other Wednesday. And get information on our destination retreats, Beth’s in Paris, mine near Delphi, Greece. For this fourth post in the series, Beth and I share with you our perspectives on writing in airports and on planes.
Air travel in the last few years has often been an experience of frustration, delays, tight seats, and a host of other challenges, big and small. A magical adventure that too often turns into extended torture.
Unless you are a writer and you know how to not only patiently move through these challenges but see them as opportunities for exploration and discovery.
As generic as airports can sometimes feel, still there are elements and idiosyncrasies to each airport whether you are flying in-country or out that can provide a cornucopia of information and resources for your writing. So, check out:
- The newsstands and bookstores. Whatever you write these vendors provide more than a great read on the plane or books on local history or regional tour guides. You can also find maps, local newspapers and magazines, and postcards that can provide inspiration and details for setting, back story, and logistics for your writing.
- The restaurants. Since 9/11 and the need to get through security early with long waits for flights on the other side, regional restaurants have invaded the airports to provide travelers with a taste of the area’s culinary cuisine. Note the cultures, the preparation and the presentation of the food, whether you are flying in and out of Italy or from New York City to LA. Bob and I, on a recent trip to Minneapolis, discovered Surdyk’s Flights Wine Market and Bar where you can have a wine and cheese tasting while you wait for your flight or have them make you a gourmet sandwich to go.
- The waiting areas. Really, how can a writer ever be bored in an airport? Families, couples, businessmen, students, vacationers all there from all over the state to all over the world. How can you help but overhear conversations and concerns? (I’m sorry, but I think a writer always has a reason to eavesdrop!) Or observe mannerisms and dress? And sometimes you can strike up a conversation and discover interesting things about the area. It’s all grist for the creative mill, whether you blog, write poetry, pen novels, or write self-help books.
- Notes. On the plane or off, this is a great opportunity to make notes of details that all the above might provide. Jot down snippets of overheard dialogue. What items of clothing are clues to status or culture? How would you describe that darkly handsome man in way to make him unique? Use a program like Evernote on your tablet or phone, or use a notebook or index cards.
- Brainstorming. Watch the dynamics of the people around you for story or conflict ideas. What if your character yelled at the hero the way that woman is yelling at the ticket person? What is that person packing in the suitcase that is so large and overweight? Even one line of overheard dialogue can lead to an idea for a whole novel. Waiting in an airport on our way to Italy, my husband said something to me and walked off and I thought, “What if a husband said that to his wife and didn’t return?” A whole suspense novel idea spun out before me. Index cards are great for brainstorming scenes or story ideas.
- Writing and Editing. The best writing use of shorter flight times is probably editing, because of all the interruptions for food service and flight information. For short flights, I’ll print out several scenes or chapters to take with me along with my red pen. For longer flights, especially those where your neighbors settle in to sleep or read, the quiet and the inability to do much else is a great opportunity to write new scenes or chapters whether on your laptop or tablet or in your paper notebook. I usually like to use a regular notebook and pen because it is easy to move those if the neighbor needs to get up and use the facilities or stretch his limbs.
Whenever and wherever you travel, even if you are taking a bus or train, the opportunities for writing are there. Inspiration and ideas abound in places of transit.
Just be alert and aware, have your writing tools with you, and you’ll be able to take advantage of every travel challenge… er, opportunity.