Genre Lessons: Travel Writing

7988-a-wooden-path-in-the-woods-pvI belong to a librarian book club that reads a different genre every month to improve our reader’s advisory skills. The idea is to get us better-acquainted with the types of books we may not normally read. In addition to improving my recommendations, I’m also studying these books from a writer’s perspective. Just because I don’t write a certain genre doesn’t mean I can’t learn from those who do. If you want to see other posts in this series, check out the “genre lessons” tag.

This month we’re reading nonfiction travel narratives. Rather than discuss what I learned from the writing, I’m going to share lessons I learned from the book itself, and how I plan to apply them to my writing life.

  1. Do what works for you. As the narrator traveled through three different countries, she adopted pieces of each culture into her own daily life. Her journey was partly an exploration of faith, and while I don’t like to discuss faith online, I was struck by her ability to blend pieces of the seemingly-contradictory styles of Indian and Balinese mediation to create a routine that worked for her. I think the same attitude can be applied to writing advice. There’s a lot of advice out there (both here and on other sites) about when to write, how to outline, how to revise, etc. Some of this advice will be exactly what you need to jump-start your own project or routine. Some of it will be terrible for you, but may work great for another writer. There’s no one right or wrong way to do this. Do what works for you. And don’t criticize others for doing what works for them.
  2. Take care of yourself. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you hit a rough patch, give yourself the time, space, and means to heal. Don’t be overly-critical of yourself. The next time you’re beating yourself up over something, ask yourself, would I say this to my best friend? Would I be this harsh toward a family member? If not, then give yourself a break.
  3. Make plans, but give yourself permission to break them. I think it’s a good idea to set goals, and I work best when I give myself deadlines. But sometimes sticking too rigidly to those plans can hinder your writing. Maybe you just can’t sort out the revisions for one project, but you have a new idea that’s begging to be written. At this stage, I have the luxury of all my deadlines being self-imposed, but I still feel guilty when I push them back. Sometimes, letting yourself make new plans will give you the freedom to get both projects where you want them.

So, those are the lessons I took from travel narratives. How do you balance your writing life?


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