We just came back from a few days at Walt Disney World. These are three of my favorite things: reading, writing, and traveling. So I started noodling the various ways they influence one another. My thinking was all over the place, but I think I managed to pull something coherent together. Lists are marvelous organizers, aren’t they?
- Just as you should absolutely never judge a book by it’s cover so you should never ever judge a vacation by it’s first day.
- When you are a reader you may begin to think that occurrences and conversations in your real life are placed there for the effect of foreshadowing or symbolic meaning. In fact, they may just be your significant other making a comment about “This really isn’t great weather to travel in.” In a book, that’s foreshadowing. And look out if it starts raining. As my AP English teacher in high school pointed out, rain in a book rarely portends happy things ahead. Thankfully, this is one way books veer away from reality occasionally.
- Read different books. Travel to different places and countries. Variety guys. Mix it up. It’ll only make you a more informed, interesting, and insightful human being. We met several nice families who claimed WDW as their vacation destination each year. What? Even if your kids adore everything Disney-ish, it’ll behoove them in the long run to appreciate something that isn’t entirely based on imaginative play and mindless consumption. Same is true of reading different books. They’ll take you to different places, explore different themes, and challenge how you approach life.
What really shone through during our few days of travel was the planner/pantser link. If you’re not familiar with the depiction of writers as either planners or seat-of-the-pants-ers (aka: pantsers), then I’d recommend the May/June 2016 Writer’s Digest. It has an article about the distinctions between the two and where they can both benefit and inform the other – and where they get stuck.
In real life, I tend to be a Planner. I really don’t like the details of planning a trip. I want to show up and have someone create the experience for me. That would be magic. But, I would literally (and I’m using that word pretty close to it’s intended definition), I would literally die if I had to pants an entire trip. I would get lost and starve to death if that was my situation. I’m good at planning – much less adept at pants-ing.
Now, my writing, well….that has surprised me. I’m Team Pantser so far. What?!?! I know, it’s driving me nuts, fascinating me, and sidetracking me all over the place to my delight.
With traveling, especially traveling with someone else, and especially-especially traveling with small children, you have to Plan and Pants. Traveling will teach you like nothing else will how to Plan-to-Pants or Pants-Into-A-Plan. Become adept at it in the realm of traveling and take those lessons into your writing.
- Make a list if nothing seems to connect naturally with pre-planned prose. (That may or may not be what happened with this post. I’ll never tell.)
- Just because something doesn’t work out the way you expected doesn’t mean it’s headed for disaster. Check out the new angle.
- If you’re overwhelmed by choices and options, pick one thing that you want to do and start there.
- Be enthusiastic about success.
- Say Yes! when something not on the original plan is proposed.
- If you’re hungry, as either a pantser or a planner, feed your belly. I cannot stress this enough.
- Expect tolls: those little projects you *have* to do in order to ride the thrill of the big road. Pay them and move on.
- When the coffee cups aren’t big enough, use a larger measuring cup. Improvise a lot. Be creative. Plan to Pants a few things.
- Do it all as often as you can: reading, writing, and traveling.
ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN
Finally, one word on writing for and traveling with children: do it. Seeing the world through the eyes of children is magical. I rode “It’s a Small World” three times with my two-year-old and she was captivated each time. The one time my five-year-old went with us she almost leapt out of the boat in her enthusiasm to point something out.
Plus, kids say things that are delightful. My five-year-old bending over the water exclaimed “I just discovered something about fish.” She was convinced that her observation was the first such one regarding fish. And we didn’t tell her otherwise.
If you write books for small children, take a couple kids to an amusement park or a local park and open yourself to their genuine wonder and curiosity. It’ll rip holes in your staid adult ideas, shine spotlights on your imaginative capabilities, and sensitize your hearing to that which is playful and great.
Where have you found travel to intersect with your reading or writing?