Developing a writing ritual or routine is a feat to be celebrated. So what happens when one travels, and as a result uproots all of that progress for a moment in time? For me, traveling is a time of suspension, a hiatus of sorts when all of the routines of life get put on pause and one simply focuses on enjoying the experience. Finding time for things like writing becomes a treat rather than a necessity, and as a result those times of engaging in that activity are often more profitable and enjoyable than they otherwise might be.
While traveling to New Zealand earlier this month, I found little time to write. On a whirlwind trip for a travel story I’m working on, there was little opportunity to open my laptop for any purpose aside from planning the next day’s schedule. However, I did manage to slip away to a lovely little bar attached to a fancy seafood restaurant in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbor area for some wine tasting and writing. It was totally by accident; I had caught a cab to the area to meet up with the group I was traveling with, but finding that the event had been canceled due to weather, I found myself with a free hour and a half until dinner. I climbed the stairs up to the Harbourside Seafood Bar and Grill and settled in for some reflection.
I always carry a notebook and pen with me, which is a practice I’d encourage every writer to do without fail. Because of that, I was able to find what felt like stolen moments in which to write. I opened the notebook with no expectations other than to allow words to flow freely onto the paper. I chatted with the bartender about New Zealand wines and ordered a Sauvignon Blanc to try. He brought out my glass plus a sample of another of his favorites, and noting my interest in the wines he printed out for me a guide he uses for training the staff on the country’s grape-growing areas. I made notes of the Sauvignon Blancs I had tasted thus far in the trip, marking them on the map the bartender had given me, and I wrote in my notebook.
Nothing I wrote that day–neither the wine notes nor the words that flowed on the pages of my notebook–will make it into published works. Rather, I took the opportunity to synthesize thoughts that have been swirling around in my head and I processed them through the act of writing. The result was the beginning of a weeks’ long journey into discovering my ideals of the writing life and how I might begin to execute them upon returning home.
Those unanticipated moments can be as productive as the ones that are scheduled, if the writer allows him- or herself to take notice. The time I spent that afternoon are still guiding my thoughts as I work through how I want to orchestrate my schedule and time this spring.
How do you utilize those unanticipated moments when they occur? What comes out of them as a result?