Lessons from Abroad

It’s good to be back.  Back to the wind and the snow and the cold.  Back to the kids and the dog and laundry.  Back to real life.  Dorothy was right: there’s no place like home.

Vacation was the bomb.  Besides enjoying the 90 degree temperature swing from blustery Minnesota to sunny St. Croix, I learned some valuable lessons that pertain to writing and life. 

  1. Pack your suitcase with everything you need, then take 1/2 of it back out.  Seriously, the only things necessary for a tropical vacation are a swimsuit, a cover up, sunglasses and sunscreen.  Everything else is optional.  Too often we are afraid to leave anything behind and end up with way too much stuff.  Extranneous detail in writing is like a long walk through the airport pulling overstuffed suitcases–while wearing four inch stillettos.  Nobody wants to do it, and everyone laughs when they see it. 
  2. Zip lock baggies are a traveler’s best friend.  It is almost guaranteed they will be used for anything from wet swimsuits to pocket change to sea shells to air port liquids.  These little gems organize our stuff in ways we can’t begin to imagine.  Think about them as the cut and paste features in a Word document.  Writers really have no excuse not to use them to rearrange prose until it fits just right. 
  3. Life long friends can be made in one day.  DH and I were worried about balancing our time between several groups of friends (it was a work trip).  We did not factor into it a couple that we instantaneously clicked with.  It felt as if we had known them forever, and by the end of the cruise, we were planning ahead for future get-togethers.  That same comfortable feel is what I strive for when I write.  I want my readers to click with my protags and lament the end of the trip. 
  4. Put on the damn sunscreen.  I truly believe we Americans are dumb when it comes to the sun.  We are too cool to lather up.  We want to go home and “show off” our tans.  We believe we are better than the guy next to us and won’t burn.  If I had a seashell for every sunburned and peeling body (not my own) that disembarked from the cruise ship, I could build my own beach.  Writers beware: egos have no place in publishing.  At least not for us debuters.  Pay attention to industry news and hone your skills.  Don’t strut your stuff around cyber space, pretending you are untouchable.  The sun can burn anyone. 
  5. There is no need to sniff test; everything stinks.  I knew better, but I did it anyways.  While unpacking, I sniffed my clean clothes to determine if they needed washing.  Hmmm, tropical humidity smells good on an island, but not in the suitcase.  In the same way, a newly completed manuscript may reek of success as we type “the end”.  However, I guarantee it will need a good washing before it can be worn in public.
  6. Just because the boat stops moving doesn’t mean you do.  Yesterday, our first day back, I wanted to say hi to y’all.  I booted up my computer and couldn’t focus on the screen.  Literally.  Sea legs are great on a moving ship, but only serve to muck up your balance on dry land.  I couldn’t get my equalibrium back.  Vacation had officially ended, but someone forgot to fill in my brain on that little detail.  Writing as a career means more than penning a few words.  When the first manuscript docks, don’t give in to the temptation to lean back in your chair and declare success.  Start on your next project while you still have momentum. 
  7. Always tip your porter.  Or whoever performs an admirable service that makes your life easier.  Swimsuit cleavage may get you a drink faster, but it won’t guarantee continued good service.  Honest appreciation goes a long way in cultivating a good working relationship.  By now most of us are aware of how valuable a good agent or editor can be in the writing arena.  Don’t offer up a glimpse of something you can’t deliver and by all means let your agent know when they do something amazing. 

*Any typos or misspellings are not my fault.  My brain hasn’t yet caught up to the rest of me.  I think it’s still basking in the sun.*

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16 responses to “Lessons from Abroad

  1. Yeah you’re back!!!!!! 🙂

    (Okay, now I’ll read your blog post. :D)

  2. LOL 🙂

    Love the sniff test – we know we’re going to wash it anyway – but we all do this! Don’t we???

    Glad you had a great time – glad to have you back!

  3. Glad you’re back and had a good time. Missed your posts!

    • I missed yours, too, Layinda. I figure another day to sort out my life and I can jump on over to everybody else’s blogs. I’ve missed them and you all so much!

  4. Welcome back. Nice to have you back. I think I missed your keen observations. Good points….especially the one about over-packing, which is typical of Americans who all have too much “stuff.”

    • Yvonne,

      This trip was a grim reminder of how spoiled we are. I hate it, but am guilty of it. Do I really need a laptop? A cell phone? And sadly, we don’t see our life styles as being excessive. I think that is the greatest travesty.

  5. Dear Cat,
    Welcome back. I don’t know about Minnesota but Pa is currently in the middle of a snowstorm. One thing I have always noticed about vacations(or anywhere you have not been) is everything seems so new and fresh. As if you are viewing life for the first time.

    The trick is to be continually renewed so your writing can be fresh, too. Every day you need mini vacations and they usually cost little or nothing at all. Yes, I over pack, too, where ever I go on vacation. No matter how hard I try not to.

    I used to backpack. It is amazing how little I needed. You really think twice about taking something if it is going to be carried on your back and for miles.

    • Siggy, I agree. I am a light packer to begin with and we still over did it. I’ve camped a time or two in the boundary waters where I had to portage everything including the canoe. I can appreciate economy!

  6. I like this post a lot, especially the way you tie the travel notes to the writing process, but I’m a tiny bit jealous of the trip to a warmer place. We’re having another cold spell here in Northern Colorado. Brrrr.

    • Patricia,

      I think cold is the norm. We’ve already had more than our fair share of snow this year and yet we are supposed to double the total by the time winter is over : (

      The warm was great. The 100 degree temp swing, not so much!

  7. Ho ho, this made me laugh – and proves that writers have permanent and warped affliction of perception. Hope it’s not too much of a wrench to be back, but I’m glad you’re at the keyboard again!

  8. Yay, glad you’re back! I missed you! And as always, great post. 🙂

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