Suitcase? Check! Boarding pass? Check! Comfortable walking shoes? Check! Dictionary? Ummm . . . Some writers travel purely for the purpose of writing. For the rest of us, vacation is usually a break from the keyboard. But sometimes you have to write even when you’re not prepared to do so. Maybe you’re hit by unexpected inspiration or a press release can’t wait until next Monday. Either way, here are five tips for writing while traveling. (Most of these tips are based on the assumption that you’ll have a laptop or tablet on hand. If not, that press release may have to wait after all!)
1. Use your email as cloud storage.
You finished writing the final chapter of your debut novel while waiting at the airport. You want to save a remote backup copy just in case your laptop gets lost or stolen, but you don’t have cloud storage. No worries! Just email the file to yourself. You’ll have a copy of the chapter safely stored in your inbox and your sent folder. And if you’re worried about the security of public Wi-Fi, connect your smartphone to your laptop, save the file to your phone, and then use your mobile email to send a copy to yourself using your regular phone service.
2. Download a dictionary app.
If you didn’t stash a dictionary in your carry-on bag, you can always download a dictionary app on your smartphone or tablet. Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster both offer respectable free options.
3. Access reference material without a library card.
Most public libraries allow everyone—even tourists without library cards—to read and photocopy material. Of course, you can’t leave the building with material if you don’t have a local library card, but if you just need to do some quick research, don’t be shy about popping into the library at your vacation destination.
4. Access specialty reference material at museums.
Many museums have topic-specific libraries or research centers available to paying visitors. So, if you’re visiting a museum during your vacation, ask if it has any reference material related to your writing. Here is a short list of Chicago museums that have topic-specific libraries or research centers:
- The Field Museum (By appointment only.)
5. Use photos as visual notes.
Sure, your phone probably has note-taking capabilities. But why thumb-type notes on that tiny screen when you could be admiring the view? Instead, try to snap pictures that will remind you of what you want to write about. And who knows, the pictures might become part of the document you’re creating!
Further Reading: How to Write the Names of Ships and Boats