Sometimes finding relaxing, inspiring time to write is difficult--OK, sometimes it's downright impossible. But one sure-fire way to cure that is to take a cruise. Here are some reasons why cruising is a great way to spend a vacation that can lead to some excellent writing results.
This guest post is by Laura Heffernan. Heffernan is the author of the Reality Star series (available now) and the upcoming Gamer Girls series (2019). When not watching total strangers get married, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Heffernan enjoys travel, baking, board games, and new experiences. She lives in the northeast with her husband and two furry little beasts. Some of Heffernan's favorite things include goat cheese, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, the Oxford comma, and ice cream. Not all together. The best place to find her is usually on Twitter, where she spends far too much time tweeting about writing, Canadian chocolate, board games and reality TV. Laura is represented by Michelle Richter at Fuse Literary.
1. There’s No Internet.*
I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out: No internet means no Twitter. No Facebook, no distraction by the news. It also means no checking for new reviews, no obsessively checking Amazon rankings (not that any of us do that, of course). All of those things call us when we sit down to write, and they take us away from writing, which is what we should be focusing on.
Sure, there are plenty of distractions on a cruise, but think of the beauty of sitting down to write and…. Actually writing. There are tables on the decks that will let you stare out over the ocean while mulling character motivation or particularly tricky plot points. I set a time every day to sit, admire the view, and type out a few pages.
Bonus: If you’ve got a balcony suite, you can do this without putting on pants.
*Most Cruise lines do offer Wi-Fi packages for an extra (super high) fee. But having talked to people who found themselves charged hundreds of dollars because they didn’t realize their devices connected automatically once their package was used up… do yourself a favor and go on board with a “no Wi-Fi” mentality. You won’t miss it after a day or so.
2. Free food, 24 hours a day.
No need to stop to cook dinner or make a run for the border. If you miss the scheduled dining times, it doesn’t matter. All you have to do is pick up the phone and order room service, at any time day or night. Or if you want to stretch your legs, head on up to the Lido Deck (as Ed notes in Sweet Reality, cruise ships all have a Lido Deck, and that’s where stuff happens). You’ll find a buffet and at least one restaurant that’s open 24 hours/day. Let inspiration flow, and worry you’ll always be able to refuel when you’re done.
3. Unpack Once, See Lots of Places.
My first cruise stopped in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cozumel. (Yes, that’s essentially the itinerary followed in Sweet Reality, although I added a stop). My most recent trip stopped in two ports of Alaska, then British Columbia. We also got to sail through Glacier Bay, which I highly recommend for nature lovers.
We’d get a day in each location to get a taste of the culture, then head back to our familiar rooms to unwind. No time wasted packing and unpacking. We never had to worry about check-in/check-out times or missing a train to a new location. The ship took us everywhere we wanted to go, which meant more time for writing onboard. Even if you want to know more about a specific place than you can get in one day, cruising may give you new inspiration.
4. Get to Know People From All Over the World.
In Sweet Reality, the cruise line employees Jen encounters are identified by their name and home country. That’s not creative license. Most non-entertainment cruise employees aren’t from the United States. I still remember Julian, the Filipino waiter from my first cruise. He’d stop and chat with us every night at dinner.
The passengers are from all over the world, too. It’s not a ship full of Americans, even if you sail from a U.S. port. If you choose a set dining schedule, you’ll get a specific table to share with the same people every night. With “any time” dining, you’ll be placed with random strangers at every meal. I realize this sounds terrifying to introverts, but as a writer, it worked well. My husband would draw people into conversations, and I’d take mental notes.
Usually, when I go on vacation, I mostly talk to the people I came with. On a cruise, we’ve all got a week to become friends with the other people on board. Pull up a seat at the bar or a deck chair and have a conversation with someone who’s not just like you.
5. Try a Variety of New Activities.
One of the best parts of cruising, for me, is the excursions. Where else can you swim with horses in the ocean? Ride in a sled pulled by dogs training for the Iditarod? Zip lining has gained in popularity around the world, but have you ever done it over a waterfall? Gone on an ATV tour of a jungle? Hiked through ancient ruins? There are story ideas everywhere, all you have to do is go looking for them.
The off-ship activities Jen and her friends do in Sweet Reality are part of real excursions offered by various cruise lines I’ve traveled. You can try something new, get inspiration for when you want to challenge your main characters, and get a tax write-off**, all in one place!
**Please talk to a tax professional about this.
On top of all this, there are even cruise lines that offer vacations where you can learn more about publishing. (Full disclosure: my friend Amy runs this one. But she’s helped me a lot with marketing stuff.) Attend seminars during the day, write in the evenings while enjoying inspiring views and eating free food in your underwear, without the distraction of the internet. It’s the best of all worlds.
What’s your favorite spot for a writing vacation? Tell me in the comments.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.