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IWSG: How NOT Writing Can Make You a Better Writer

Part of our G Adventures Group on a train in China

As writers, we can get too stuck in our own heads.

One of the best cures for this, I’ve found, is to travel. I always keep a journal when I travel, and I try to update it everyday, but inevitably so much will happen that I fall behind.

I used to fret about this. How could I get so far behind? What if I forget something? And then I realized how ridiculous it would be to pass up living life in order to merely write about it.

You can always catch up on the plane.

Last month I went to China. In a moment of crazy spontaneity, I saw an unprecedented sale on a direct flight to Hong Kong. Before I knew it, I had found a group tour that would hit all the sites I desperately wanted to see, and booked it.

I had never traveled with a tour group before. Only friends and significant others, with varying success. Now I’d be throwing myself at the mercy of a group of strangers that I might not have anything in common with.

What if I was the only solo traveler? What if the group didn’t get along? What if I didn’t fit in?

Even crazier, I had to find my own way through Hong Kong and to Beijing before I met up with the group. I’d never navigated cities that immense before, and certainly not on my own. I pictured wall-to-wall people pushing past me, people who didn’t speak my language.

And even worse, there would be four overnight sleeper train rides that Google assured me would be cramped and miserable. My heart pounded harder at the thought of experiencing severe claustrophobia among a group of people who didn’t know me, care about me, and who would undoubtedly think of me as Freak Girl, or at the very least, a troublesome burden.

As writers, we’ve taught our minds to misbehave, and as the time came to leave for China, I was terrified. Instead of looking forward to this trip of a lifetime, I dreaded it. What if, what if, what if? And besides, I had so much writing to do. How could I possibly take a month off?

I’m sure those of you who have done a lot of traveling are nodding your heads and smiling. Because you know what happened next.

I found my hotel in Hong Kong with little effort, and they upgraded me to a suite. It was fabulous.

I found my flight check-in desk, my trip to Beijing was faultless, and even getting to my hotel in that city was not that difficult.

The group of strangers quickly became like-minded friends, and I met some of the most wonderful people I ever could have imagined–I hope they will be friends for life. I was sorry to say goodbye to them, and now that I’m home, I miss them constantly.

And the trains? Not only was everyone sympathetic to my claustrophobia and willing to help me in any way possible, it ended up not being a problem. The train rides I’d been so afraid of were actually the most fun–all-night slumber parties that gave us a chance to bond and really get to know each other. We laughed the most on the trains.

To write, you have to live. I was an insecure writer and an insecure traveler. Now I hope I’m a lot less insecure about both.

While I was in China I got a great idea for a novel, and one of my fellow travellers inspired a wicked first line. But that was just a bonus.

If you have the opportunity to close your journal and step away from the computer, seize it. Follow the adventure and see where it takes you. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

I never have.

Has not writing ever made you a better writer?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

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20 Comments

  1. Lynda R Young

    Travelling is so inspiring for writing. You are so right: we have to live to write.

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks, Lynda! On my last three trips, I’ve gotten great ideas for novels.

      I’ve never regretted the time spent traveling, on either a personal or professional level. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  2. Diane Burton

    Holli, you are so brave. I’m not sure I would have the guts to do what you did. Your point is great. Living is better than writing about it. Let us know when that book comes out.

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks, Diane. I didn’t have the guts, either–trust me. I just did it before I could think about it too much, and then spent a long time second-guessing myself. And then, as it turned out, it was the best thing I could have done.

      Thanks for the kind words! I will for sure let you know. I have a few books to write now…I’m so behind! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Crystal Collier

    Awesome. I’m totally with you. When I get bogged down, I take some time away with my family and play at a park. Way to go, being so brave. I would have been terrified too, but what an amazing adventure!

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      I highly recommend it, Crystal. Now that I’m home, I just want to do it again! Traveling is so addictive.

      I feel blessed that I was able to experience such an amazing country with such an incredible group of people. It has made me appreciate my life so much more than I did before.

      Thanks for commenting! I’m glad you’ve discovered the joys of taking a break too.

      Reply
  4. Mary Aalgaard

    OMG! Excellent advice and story! So glad you went and told us about it. You could also be a travel writer! So happy for you, and the novel that the trip inspired.
    Play off the Page

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for the kind words. I have done some travel writing, and hope to do more. I’d love to make a living through traveling in some way.

      I’m glad you liked the post. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  5. annehiga.com

    That is awesome and so timely! I’m getting ready to go on a train trip myself and am nervous as I’ve never traveled that way before. Also, I’m (somewhat) guiltily tying up all my writing loose ends before I go. I keep telling myself I need this, to get out from behind my writing desk for a while and live life and it IS work-related.
    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      You’re very welcome! Glad I could help. Where are you traveling?

      You will have a great time. Never feel guilty about taking time out from writing for something as amazing as traveling. We all need to recharge our batteries from time to time.

      Good luck! You’ll have a blast.

      Reply
  6. Patricia Lynne

    I think it’s so important for people to live. Even if it means taking time out of writing. During the summer, hubby and I go tourist trapping on Sundays. We see the local sites and experience the history. It’s tiring, but so much fun and has the added perk of giving me ideas.

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Hi Patricia! Welcome back. Tourist trapping sounds really fun. My bf and I used to do urban hikes, where we’d walk for about 20 km in different areas of the city, exploring it and taking photographs.

      It’s always fun to realize what you can discover by being a tourist at home. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Reply
  7. Steven

    Traveling is a great way to seek out inspiration. I want to do it more, but with kids it’s definitely harder. Glad you were able to generate some experiences that will help you later!

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks, Steven. I didn’t travel nearly as much as I should have in my early twenties, so I’m trying to make up for it now. Being self-employed certainly helps. Three to four weeks of holidays is not enough! I’m glad I no longer have to live within those restrictions.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Reply
  8. Stephanie Faris

    I stopped writing during the years following my divorce and I think it made my writing MUCH stronger. I met so many interesting people and had so many fun experiences. I don’t write specifically about those experiences but it adds to my worldview. I am in awe of your braveness, taking on a tour like that! I’ve always wanted to do something like that.

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Then you must, Stephanie! It’s so much fun. I really recommend G Adventures, especially if you’re an active person. It’s fun, a great mix of people, incredible value, and you see a lot of whichever place you tour.

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who finds taking a break helpful. The more we experience, the more we have to inspire our writing…or so I keep telling myself whenever I need a break. 😉

      Reply
  9. Crystal

    I couldn’t agree more! So happy you found inspiration on your trip and that everything went smoothly for you. Can’t wait to hear more about this novel idea of yours… 😀

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks, Crystal. I wouldn’t say everything went smoothly (as per my other post), but it was wonderful and exciting and fun, and I wouldn’t change a minute of it. (Well, maybe an hour or two, but that’s about it!)

      Welcome back!

      Reply
  10. eclecticali

    I often have to remind myself that I need to step away from not just the computer, but the notebooks and demands of “you must think about this story now.” Getting somewhere new (even if it isn’t somewhere as exciting, or an adventure as grand as yours was!) can be so helpful for getting back to writing.

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      I definitely agree. Thanks for commenting. I wish you a lot of grand adventures!

      Reply

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