Last week, I went to Kansas City for training. I rarely go out of town, in fact I don’t think I’ve gone out of town for work in over a year and that last one was a very short trip to Fairbanks. Living in Alaska, everything is far away. Even stuff up here is far away. From where I live, the capital is about 1 ½ hour flight and it can’t be reached by road. I’m actually closer to Seattle from where I’m at than I am from the farthest corner of this state, and I’m a three hour flight from Seattle. Anyhow, a trip to Kansas City, which is generally a few hours of flying time at worst (unless you’ve got to take a really wacky series of layovers) from most parts of the country. For me, however, we’re talking a minimum of 8 hours travel time involving at least 1 layover. To put icing on that cake, most AK to lower-48 flights leave sometime between the hours of 11pm and 6am.
The moral of this story is that not only do these trips trap me on an aircraft for two full days, it results in serious jet-lag and exhaustion. It’s true this trip was for business, and I committed myself to carrying out those responsibilities and talking shop for many extra hours too. One would think that I’d be too tired for creativity – which is something I hear a lot during the procrastination process. While I believe ‘too tired’ is a legitimate reason to put the writing down for a bit, after all we all get there, I feel that there are strategies for dealing with it. In any case, being away from home I was left without many of the usual distractions and responsibilities. So, even in my state of ‘holy crapamoly I’m tired’ I was able to take what little energy I had and focus it.
From the perspective of writing I learned a couple of things about myself and writing on this trip. The first is that I really need to have coffee to write. At 6:00 am I was on the plane with my iPad and couldn’t bring myself to turn it on. Once they came round with coffee I fired that bitch up and didn’t stop until the wheels hit the ground. Lesson learned: If I’ve got a warm cup by my side, I’m a lot more productive. In the evening, when coffee is a bit dicey, a beer or whiskey also seems to fill the niche (herbal tea or decaf works through the week when I’m being good). The second thing I learned about myself is a bit more involved.
Ahead of the trip, I had decided that I would focus my free time on writing, so I planned to stay off of Twitter, avoid much on Facebook (I did flip through a few times), and not even open Wordpress. I’d say that I was fairly successful there. However, I’m not convinced these are actually the source of most of my distraction. Sure I can kill an hour very rapidly by sifting through various blog posts and wipe out 5 minute spans of time keeping an eye on twitter, but those actually don’t really tear me away from what I’m doing like other sorts of things. I also didn’t turn the TV on while I was there. With that noise box silenced the hour in the morning and hour or two at night I had for writing (the same as I have now, incidentally), was uninterrupted.
The most important thing I learned, however, was that over the course of those three days last week I found that if I’ve got a strong idea, and few real distractions (and even if I’m exhausted) I can write – a lot – not polished, ready to share work, but solid rough draft material. I don’t ever recall having written 6,000 words over the course of three days while still putting in 8 hours of work plus a few hours of work-place networking before. Hell, I don’t know if I’ve ever written that amount during time off. If I hadn’t been so fried on Friday I’d probably have knocked out another 2-3K on the airplane, which would have been about half of chapter 9 of Wine Bottles and Broomsticks.
Now I’m back home and back in my usual routine and I’m not entirely sure how to apply these lessons to my day-to-day writing (except the coffee – that’s easy) given that when I get home it’s time to cook, clean up and manage children, those TV free hours are lost anyhow, it’s later that I’m still working out. I do like being able to unwind with a little TeeVee but I’d also like to get done with my book. I suppose though that just knowing that I can produce a lot feels like a personal victory and knowing more about how I work best is helpful. With that in mind, and because I’ve been kicking the idea around for a while, I signed up for NaNoWriMo. I’m planning on tackling a project other than Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. However, in order to ‘win’, I’ve got to write something on the order of 1700 words per day. Anyhow, we’ll see how it goes. For starters, I need to be well prepared so at some point soon, I’ll start outlining like a fool and sketching characters.
So, there’s my thought for the week. I should probably think them out on this blog more, but too many distractions. Off to that cup of coffee and the last ten minutes remaining to me this morning.