Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Of hoodoos and galoots

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

I just got back from a long-anticipated trip to the national parks of Utah. As we planned the trip, I dreamed of hiking in sun drenched canyons and marveling at exotic rock formations. But my dreams couldn’t match the incredible beauty that we found in Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and Snow Canyon State Park.

Canyon on Fire Zion

In Zion, I felt a sense of peace I’ve seldom experienced, even though the park was crowded with people. Something about staring up and up – and UP – at those impassive stone walls assured me of a presence beyond myself, solid and stable and impervious to time.

Field of HooDoo Bryce

In Bryce Canyon, I encountered an alien world of exquisite rock formations called “hoodoos.” I could have wandered among them for days, drinking in the eerie beauty of the castles and fortresses they seemed to create. And in Snow Canyon State Park, we climbed on galoots, giant mounds of petrified sandstone that glowed pinkish-orange in the Utah sunset.

I knew this would be a fun vacation, but it turned out to be so much more than that. I came home with a new sense of myself and my life, and I realized that for a writer, or any creative person, travel is not a luxury but a necessity. You don’t have to travel far to be transported, but that transportation – that sense of being swept out of your ruts and routines, your assumptions and even your worldview, is essential. I’m well aware that not everyone can afford to travel, and I’m grateful for this opportunity I had to experience myself and my surroundings in a new way.

How will this journey affect my writing? I truly don’t know. Certainly, multitudes of story ideas raced through my head as I hiked among the hoodoos and climbed the galoots. But it’s not so much the thoughts I had during the trip that mattered; it was stepping into a different world that will allow me to come back my work with a fresh perspective.

Have you ever taken a trip that changed you? How did it affect your writing?


Writing life vs. “real life”

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Yesterday my friend Megan Bostic wrote a post on her blog about whether writers market too much on social media. She mentioned a formula, which I’ve encountered before, that says you should share 25 percent about your books and writing on social media and 75 percent about “real life.”

I understand the principle, but I also started wondering if it’s really possible for most writers to separate their writing and their personal lives. I find that writing permeates every aspect of my existence. I adore my family, my pets, and my friends; I’m dedicated to my work as a dance and Pilates instructor; and there are plenty of activities besides writing that I enjoy doing in my spare time. But if I’m being really honest with myself, I’d have to say that when I wake up in the morning, my first thought isn’t about my family or my work or my hobbies – it’s about my plot or my characters.

I feel guilty saying that. Does the fact that I think more about the people I’ve created in my head than the actual human beings around me make me some kind of sociopath? Does it mean that I don’t care about the people in my life? I don’t think so. I think that, like many writers, I’m just hard-wired to make my creative work my top priority.

I try to share about my personal life on social media, I really do. Take this blog for instance. I’ve posted about cancer survival (and how it affects my writing), about my husband (and what he’s taught me about book promotion), and about trips we’ve taken together (and how I managed to write during said travels.) You see, writing is so interwoven with the rest of my life that I can’t simply set it aside or separate it out.

So I apologize if I’m talking to much about my writing process and too little about what I did on my weekend. That’s probably because I spent most of it writing.

What do you think? Do you wish writers would share more about their personal lives and less about their writing processes?


How to write anywhere

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Last spring, I blogged about writing in Hawaii, but that was a piece of cake compared to this past weekend, when I worked on my novel revision smack in the middle of a gathering of hundreds of amateur astronomers at the Table Mountain Star Party.

Imagine this scene: Hundreds of cars and RVs parked inches from each other. A line of tents pitched around the periphery of the “telescope field,” where everyone has set up their equipment. People, people everywhere – talking astronomy, laughing, making music, constantly walking the well-worn path between the parking area and the food stand. Add thunder, lightning, rain, hail, and wind to this scenario, and you don’t exactly have the ingredients for an idyllic writing retreat.

But I turned it into one anyway.

In the three days we were on Table Mountain, I managed to write for several hours every day and completely revised two chapters, including writing some new scenes from scratch. How did I do it? Here are a few tips for writing just about anywhere.

1. Make a commitment. Promise yourself you’re going to write, and then just do it. Don’t let anything stop you. No excuses.

2. Prepare before you go. I wasn’t sure that there would be anyplace to plug in my laptop, so I made sure it was fully charged before we left home. I also brought along a notebook and some pens for when the battery ran out. (As it turned out, the nice people at the food stand let me charge my laptop in one of their electrical outlets, but that was just good luck.) Be ready to write even in a worst case scenario.

3. Create a structure. For me, trying to write all day just isn’t realistic. Putting a concrete boundary on my writing time, like, “I’m going to write from the time I finish breakfast until noon” helps to give me a sense of accomplishment.

4. Reward yourself. Once you’ve completed the day’s goal, whether it be a page or word count or a specified amount of time, reward yourself with an enjoyable activity in your environment. For me, it was a 1-mile hike to Lion’s Rock.

5. Seek support. Tell people about your commitment to write and ask them to support you by making an effort to give you space. My husband supported me on our trip by bringing along his journal so we could write together.

What’s the most interesting or challenging place you’ve ever written in? How did you keep yourself on task?

When life gets in the way

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

I’ve almost completed my pre-revision to-do list for my latest novel, and I’m chomping at the bit to get through the rest of it so I can get started with the actual revision. But sometimes life gets in the way.

Yesterday was my thirteenth wedding anniversary. So instead of writing, I took a long day trip with my husband to the Olympic Peninsula where we hiked, had a lovely lunch, and enjoyed a little bit of Northwest sunshine. It was a glorious day and evening, and I didn’t allow myself to feel even a pang of guilt for spending time with my life partner instead of writing a synopsis.

Today, two cousins I haven’t seen since I was a teenager are coming to town, one from Kansas and the other from Arizona. My cousin Ronda is staying with us, so I spent the morning cleaning house and buying flowers for the guest room. Who knows when she and my other cousin, Eric,  will get a chance to visit again, so once they arrive, I’ll set my laptop aside and focus on being with them.

I consider myself to be a dedicated writer who is passionate about her work. I’m as disciplined as the next writer, and maybe more than most. But I’m a writer second and a person first, and I know that sometimes I have to let go of my desire for forward momentum on my novel to be with the people I care about. Because I know that, in the end, although my work ais vitally important to me, my relationships with my husband, my family, and my friends are what matter most.

Now excuse me while I get a little work done on that synopsis before my cousin arrives…

Under what circumstances do you let life get in the way of your writing? Does it frustrate you, or are you able to let go?

My week in So. Cal.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I know I haven’t blogged in a week. It wasn’t because I couldn’t; it was because I wanted to stay in the moment and experience my time in Southern California. But now I’m back and ready to recount my adventure.

My reason (excuse?) for the trip was to take part in Teen Author Reading Night at the Los Angeles Central library. More about that in a moment. I got into L.A. the day before the reading and had arranged with my friend and fellow YA author Kathy McCullough to pick me up at the airport. As soon as I got into her car, she told me that it had taken her three tries to get the car started and that she was going to drop me off at her apartment and take it straight to her mechanic. Thus began a 3-day comedy of errors which ended in our having to rent a car to get me to the library event. But car troubles notwithstanding, I had a lovely time staying with Kathy and exploring her neighborhood.

Then came the Teen Author Reading Night. It was memorable for several reasons, the main one being that it’s the first time I’d been part of an event where I didn’t know the other authors, since I’ve gotten so used to doing events with my Elevensies cohorts. But of course they were all gracious and amazing people (what YA authors aren’t?), and it didn’t take me long to feel comfortable.

The other memorable thing about the event was that at least half of the audience were teens! Aside from high school visits, most of the book events I’ve been involved with are largely attended by other writers or aspiring writers, so it was nice to have the opportunity to actually speak to the target audience for my book.  All in all, it was a great experience, and I’ll always remember my evening at the L.A. Central library.


The next day, it was off to the train station to catch a train to my hometown of San Diego. After a pleasant 2 and a half-hour ride, I was back on my childhood turf, where I spent five days visiting my family, catching up with old friends, and enjoying some of my favorite places, most notably the beautiful Balboa Park. When the time came to leave, I felt glad to be getting back home to my husband and my own life, but sad to say goodbye to my mom and brothers.

Have you taken any journeys lately? Where did you go?