Every summer I spend more time on the road than at home. Work travel has me spending a lot of time in planes, on buses, and (uncomfortably) in camp beds. Despite my hectic, road-warrior lifestyle, I still flesh out ideas and continue writing.
This lifestyle isn’t always easy. Responsibilities that come with work travel can drain you, leaving little time to explore thoughts, let alone write them down. However, a few tools have helped me keep writing. Let's take a look at some of them.
Analog Method: Notebook
I’m not a note-taker. I never have been. Throughout my schooling, taking notes was like a foreign language. I knew it worked for my friends but I could not understand it.
Over the last few years, I’ve found the allure as it pertains to writing. Keeping a physical notebook handy is a great way to capture thoughts as they occur. The key is to capture enough of the thought so you aren’t confused later when reading the notebook.
I jot down things people say, the outline of a story, or unique things I see. It’s better to capture these as they happen rather than try to remember them later.
Sometimes I capture these thoughts digitally (as I’ll discuss in a moment) but an analog notebook has the added ability to capture physical memories. I'll enclose ticket stubs, receipts, or anything else that can help piece together a larger story later.
Day One Journal
I have used the Day One Journal app for over five years. At the end of each day, I write in the app on my phone and capture what happened throughout the day. I do this by answering three questions about the day.
These entries are often just for my own memories. Sometimes they develop into stories and essays of their own. For example, various entries containing commentary on photos were sewn together to form a detailed travel essay.
Like an analog notebook, the phone’s Notes app is a great place to capture quick ideas while traveling. While notes alone don’t make complete stories, they’re a great starting point.
While sitting on an airplane, I opened the Notes app to capture a reactionary thought. I read an article in the airline’s magazine and wanted to remember a few points. The thought evolved into an entire response which I posted to Facebook once an internet connection was available.
While traveling, ideas developed in Day One or the Notes app are copied to Ulysses. There, I expand the ideas, add formatting, comments, and outlines. I typically have a dozen “works in progress” open in Ulysses that can be edited or expanded while on the go.
Before a recent trip, I began an essay exploring leadership themes and developed an outline in Ulysses. Throughout the trip, I witnessed a few things that became examples in the essay. This expanded the outline with real-world anecdotes that added life to the essay.
I publish most of my writing on Medium. Ulysses exports drafts to Medium, which makes publishing easy. While publishing is possible from the phone or iPad while traveling, I still prefer proofing and editing on a larger screen.
Writing with my thumbs is still not as accurate as writing with all ten figures, so mistakes occur. When home, I fire up Ulysses on my computer, which syncs with the phone version. After a read through, I spend time with the story in the ProWritingAid editor. Once everything feels right, I export the draft to Medium for publishing.
Traveling, even that for work, enriches our lives and provides ample material for our writing. The key is to capture those moments without getting overwhelmed in the moment. Your writing will grow as will your ability to reflect on the experience.