Travel/Write – Why Write While Traveling

For writers who travel and love to write.

Mom at a temple in India

Mom, avoiding the trampling elephants

Travel writing sounds so glamorous; get paid to see legendary places, sample unusual food, sleep in exotic hotels, all on a magazine’s expense account.  Wow right?  Except there are maybe four writers who get to work that way.  The majority of travel writers pay for their trips, write up the experience and work hard to publish those articles on a blog, newspaper or magazine and often receive about  $1,000 for their efforts.   So why bother?

Because Travel and Writing are in your blood and your blood is made of part oxygen, part helium, and part ink. Like all obsessive hobbies, writing about travel is pointless, costly and fun as hell – it can be found listed in the same category as water skiing, sky diving, or gourmet cooking, there is no why there is just expensive equipment.  The goal and you hope, ultimate outcome, is huge, massive satisfaction rather than any product.   Often my only takeaway after three weeks in a foreign country is a small ceramic elephant and a clutch of poorly rendered postcards.  And it’s all worth it.   

Travel will extend your year and extend your life, not those crappy years at the end, but next week.  Spent on foreign soil, next week will last much longer than usual.

But you know all this. There are blogs and blogs and blogs about the joy of travel: climbing Mt. Everest, hiking through North Korea, building schools in Afghanistan.  You can find all those missives, read them, believe them or not.

I love that travel is not a competitive sport. I don’t need to have a count or see “more” than another traveler.  I don’t need to stand in 100 countries.  In fact, that 100 country contest?  I actually counted the countries I did want to visit and arrived at 80.  What countries of you want to visit?  Five?  Ten?  Travel to where you want, not to rack up a number, because no one cares.  Most travelers will not ask your score.

For me, part of the adventure, of you can call it that, is traveling with my elderly mother.  ( I get to call her elderly because it’s my blog).  At 81, mom is no hiker.  She walks like one of those wind-up toys that teeter along,  half step after half step eventually falling off the edge of the coffee table.  So scaling Kilimanjaro is out.

But ushering her across the streets in  Mumbai was pretty damn exciting.

I know it was exciting because I made a note in my journal –  almost killed mom today.    I don’t edit while writing, but I do edit and editorialize on behalf of the blog or in telling the story to friends. With each telling, the traffic becomes denser, the street wider and mom slower.  It’s my story and I’ll enhance if I want to.

What about you?  You may be traveling this summer, do you think you’d like to write down some impressions, take a few notes, write up the draft for a poem that includes the bright summer sky, three new birds and your elderly parent?

All you need is a notebook. (See, this activity is already cheaper than base jumping).

Yes, you can make notes on your phone. Of course, you can.  When I pass by one of you doing this, hunched over, studious chimping away at the world’s smallest keyboard using just your opposable thumbs, I am amazed, impressed and can’t help note that more time is spent figuring out the keyboard and checking that the notes are correct rather than enjoying the surroundings.

Look up (especially if you’re writing about birds).

Bring the phone, but also bring a notebook.  Notebooks free you from the distraction of technology and encourage spontaneity.  Plus, no roaming fees. A good travel notebook is large enough for ephemera:  tickets stubs, postcards, coasters, business cards from the hotel, and small enough to fit in a pocket or purse.  Ideally, you can carry your notebook while wandering through a museum or sitting at a tiny cafe table.   

Don’t spend too much money on a fancy notebook,  it will just terrify you, you won’t want to deface it with your pen.

Pens, don’t assume pens. Take the pens you love and take more than just that one.  As soon as you think, oh, I’ll just pick up a pen at the airport or I’m sure there are pens available in Albania, there won’t be.  Take four or so, and scattered them through your luggage because a cluster of pens rubber banded together makes TSA personnel nervous.

Take a backup notebook.  Sure you found the perfect one, but just in case, throw another into the bottom of your suitcase, that way you won’t restrain your writing just because you have three pages to the end of the notebook, but four days left on the trip.

Should you aspire to create a Pinterest-worthy notebook?  Nope. I follow those boards and am amazed and impressed with the level of talent and creativity scuttling around the world.  I collect them on my travel/write board, but I cannot do it myself. Journals are filled with perfect square writing and elegant watercolors.  Stunning works of art. Impressive, impossible.

If you are worried about your mother pitching off the end of the felucca, you won’t have much time or bandwidth for stunning and beautiful.

But you will have time for notes and impressions.  Embrace the messy notebook, revel in creating something that will never be ready for its close-up.  The fun of a notebook is making the notes. Write a poem around the paper napkin filched from the trendy restaurant.  Make a couple of notes in your lap while your travel partners finish their coffee.

Record the sound of a bird, describe a tree.  Travel.  Write.

And join us on Facebook – Travel/Write.  A group of unrepentant writers and travelers.

Luring Your Muse

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

This blog first appeared on Writer’s Fun Zone

I’m not a fan of Sara Gilbert per se, but she delivered a great TED talk on the Muse.  Based on that talk (the Muse must have been pleased with her TED talk) she has a book, Big Magic.  I bought it hard cover, I’ve read the whole thing, I liked it much better than that other book of hers.  I talk about the Muse all the time, and Gilbert does a good job defining the Muse and what it means for authors.Blog by Catharine Bramkamp

In the past, writers and artists were not so much responsible for their creative work as they were honored to be the instruments of creative inspiration. The artist was simply a medium for a greater power to flow through them and create work that needed to be born into the world.

As passive as that sounds – that we are merely hands, eyes and bodies at the service of a capricious god, it does take some of the pressure off.

If we are channeling the Muse, then a dry spell, the inability to produce great art, is not entirely the direct result of bad character or lack of will power.  However, it may mean that you angered your god.

Think back, did you  leave the right offering at the feet of your Muse?  Did you remember to thank her for the last creative rush, the one that left you exhausted and spent but also gloriously alive?

Did you wait around, burning your incense, leaving cookies and brandy, yet  she never came and you just spent a month staring at a blank screen?   And now you’re pissed?

That’ s the conundrum.  Wait for inspiration?  Worship, pray and hope?  Or, as Jack London suggested, hunt down inspiration with a bat.   

You don’t need a bat. It is possible to encourage the Muse to visit on a daily basis.  Contrary to popular lore, the Muse responds well to schedules.  She will often drop  by at the same time each day.  Your job is to discover when that is and be there when she visits.

Gertrude Stein once said of the writing process, “It will come if it is there and if you will let it come.”

But for the writing to come, you may have to nudge it along by finding a consistent source of inspiration. Stein claimed her best ideas came to her while she was driving around in her car looking at cows. She would write for only 30 minutes a day, driving around a farm and stopping at different cows until she found the one that most fit her mood.

Barring counting cows  follow the advice of many, including me: show up.

If the Muse knows you’re home, she is more likely to stop by.

For the first weeks, you may show up in good faith but the Muse may not reciprocate.  She may  be wandering around your house, checking the base boards for dust, reading the books in your library and judging if you are really serious, or if you’re actually playing Candy Crush and it just looks like you’re working.  The Muse is not that easily fooled.  To attract the Muse, you need to be writing.

And by writing I mean anything you want, anything that comes to mind. Like warming up the water in the shower, you turn on the words, let them flow and pretty soon  they will become the right temperature, and you then can step into the shower and relish the flow.

I believe in the Muse, I believe in luring her to my side with promises of wine, chocolate, and attentive listening.  I believe in thanking her for her efforts on my behalf. And if I could, I would book her as a guest on Newbie Writers Podcast.

Make your offering today.  Your writing will start to improve by tomorrow.  I swear by the wild red hair of my Muse.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #CatharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

Unmistakable After School

Instagram poem
To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

Technically Prepared – Instagram Poem

Instagram poem

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

Inspiration for Writers

Writing inspiration Catharine BramkampDon’t Write Like You Talk

What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Some people work with prompts to start their ten minute write.  Which I think is a wonderful idea, it’s like warming up before a run, or something.  I don’t run.  Don’t listen to me.

In Don’t Write Like We Talk, we include a prompt in every show.  To stream line the process, here are a few writing prompts.  Feel free to print them out, share them, use them.   

  • Writer’s Block:  When your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.
  • Write about writer’s block.  Believe it or not, when you are really stuck in your work, try writing:  I am really stuck, over and over.  Or try writing non-stop for ten minutes.  The act alone can help you break through.
  • I love holiday letters that chronicle perfect families,  wonderful lives, but gloss over some of the rough parts: the latest arrest, another  job loss, the school record for detentions served.
  • What would happen if we sent our friends and family holiday cards that spoke the absolute truth? Would our year look different from what  we post on Facebook?  Would our holiday missives sound  different if they weren’t mailed to elderly aunts and cousins we still want to impress?
  • What does that look like?
  • Write a holiday letter that only tells the truth.
  • Don’t mail it.
  • Have you ever not said something and were later glad you didn’t?
  • Write about the times you wished you kept your mouth shut.
  • If you need to increase the tension in a fiction  chapter or lift a sagging story line, allow your  character to blurt out some inconvenient truth to the wrong person.  It will keep things lively.
  • Ever do that yourself?
  • What is the worst job you’ve ever had? What was the worst job your character ever had. How did it shape her character, how did it shape yours?
  • Write down a memory from your grandparents.  Did they have a story they told and re-told?  And your initial reaction was “not the story about Grandpa and the bear again”.  This time, remember that old story and write it down.  See what happens from there.  I know, maybe nothing.
  • What have you done recently that was memorable but has no accompanying photos?
  • is it possible to experience something and not have a photo of it?
  • Write about an adventure that managed to happen without any photos.
  • Write out your favorite joke. Now write it as if it went horribly wrong.  Wrong set up, wrong punch like,  just wrong.  If that too funny?  Or just horrible?  Write a story about someone telling a joke badly.  Or someone telling a bad joke.
  • What is stored in the garage right now, gathering dust?
  • What part of your life does it represent?
Visit us on iTunes  – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually.  All you need to do is wait . . .  Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

Why Inspiration is So Difficult

 

Inspiration for writingDon’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

How do you get inspired?  And why is it so difficult to wrestle that inspiration into words let alone into something as coherent as a poem or a novel or a self-help book?  And how do you court inspiration?

Part of the problem we have with inspiration  is that inspiration is often depicted in cartoons or novels or film  as fun, fast and fantastic.  The lightbulb pops up over a character’s head at exactly the right time (thus moving the plot along).  It is delivered in a song, it floats down to characters during a dreamy afternoon paddling on a lake, it is easy.

So what the heck right?  What if we don’t  sing, and there is no lake nearby, and the only light bulb I have access to is on my emoji keyboard.

Inspiration does not necessarily work like magic. But it does work.

Inspiration, delivered by  a perverse Muse often arrives at seriously  inconvenient times, like when you are driving.

Or when you are scrubbing the toilet.

Here’s the good news:  We all drive and we all have toilets.

Inspiration is often not up to you, it is, I believe, a product of successful courting of the capricious  Muse.  Inspiration is often a result of input: books, films, theater, conversation. 

Inspiration comes when you’ve learned so much, the material finally reaches critical mass and you get inspired.   

While you are negotiating heavy traffic.

And you think – now?  Now you visit me oh Muse who is not paying attention to my daily schedule.

And the Muse puts her hands on her hips and says “well do you want it or not?  Because there’s a guy in the lane behind you who will take this great idea and run with it if you are too lazy to pull out a napkin from Starbucks and that pencil stub from yesterday’s golf game and scribble this down.

And so you do.

And because you stuffed your brain with images and ideas and both good literature, great literature and bad literature, you are prepared to know what it is, what the difference is, and you see that yes, yes it’s original and wonderful and inspired.

That’s often how it works.  So read something, watch something.  Go scrub the toilet.  If you don’t get inspired for your writing – at least the bathroom is clean.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

Being A Beginner

Beginning is just like starting.  Just start!

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

“Each moment is a place you’ve never been.” – Mark Strand
Are you a beginner? Good. We all are. You’ve no doubt read countless sincere articles about beginner’s mind, the whole zen profound thoughts on beginning and starting fresh.
It doesn’t need to be that hard.
It’s just about starting – and more important, not over analyzing the project before you even start.
Beginners are curious.
Beginners ask, What if?
Beginners block out that pernicious quote: If I knew what I was getting into, I would never have started. Start.
Start the story of your aunt like Julia Park Tracey did. Finish with a best selling series.
Start your story of your mother, like Linda Joy Meyers did. Finish as the head of the Memoir Writers Association.
Start by recording the crazy character who keeps talking in your head.

Beginner’s mind,is another way of expressing – starting.

You probably have read countless articles on starting – how to start an exercise program, how to start a successful diet, how to start a family. Starting a novel is much like starting a family. You do not give birth to a five-year-old. You give birth to a baby with, if you’re lucky, a small head.

Writing is just like that. You start small.
You begin small.

Here is how to start:
Don’t start by working on a big novel, all day. Don’t even start writing for an hour.
Write on anything at all for 10 minutes.
Now stop and walk away. (You know, I tried pushing out that last baby for ten minutes and then volunteered to quit and just walk away. Obstetric nurses don’t have much of a sense of humor).

If it’s not a baby, you can return to your project the next day feeling rather refreshed. Feed that beginning effort with more words. Don’t rewrite, just add. In a few months you’ll have a respectful number of words that once organized and edited, may reveal a theme and plot.

But small, start small. Because trying to give birth to a fully formed novel in one go, is very painful indeed.

To learn more.
Visit us on Itunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
And @CBramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp, thank god there is only one of me