Friday 1 May 2015

Travel, Challenge and Writing

Travel and writing are two of my passions and I've been blessed to have been able to travel often, particularly in the last ten years.

Travel inspires me to write, not only because of the locations and experiences, but because I can write a lot on planes or at airports. For some reason being in a confined space where sitting for long periods is obligatory, I am motivated to write.

From 2005 to 2012 I travelled several times a year to Cambodia where I ran training courses. I'd fly on a Sunday to Phnom Penh, teach Monday to Friday and fly home Saturday.

I was able to write a substantial amount on these trips as I travelled alone and filled the long trips with work.

This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard. Neil Gaiman

When I taught high school, I would often do an activity with my students that involved a timer. I'd challenge the students to write as many words as possible in a given period. I told them not to worry about spelling or punctuation. The goal was to write as many words as possible.

you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. Stephen King

I did this as many students would complain when I set a word count for a particular assignment. '500 words! You're joking!' some would exclaim.

However, when I set the task to write as many words as possible they were able to write 300 words or so in a ten minute period. Boys in particular used to enjoy this challenge. Editing took longer, of course!

This principle has stayed with me and I use it sometimes when I have been a bit stuck with my writing.

I often challenge myself by asking a question:

How many pages can I write on this five-hour flight?

How many words can I write today? 

How many chapters can I write this week?

Last week I came to an impasse on a novel I began in 2010. I'd written about my nemesis recently and was trying out different strategies in order to get to the finish line. So, I just started writing and told myself I was going to sit in my study all day, except for comfort, tea or lunch breaks.

I did this and in one day I wrote five thousand words. They were not great words, or the best constructed sentences, however, I wrote LOTS of words.

So I did again the next day, then the next day and the one after that. Then I had a rest!

Elaine Fraser


  1. Thanks Elaine for the encouraging post. Loved the quotes about the power in simply … writing. I'm always amazed how easy it is to put off writing because of doubt of what I'll write that day but then when I start the words begin (often very slowly) to flow.

  2. Thanks for that Elaine. What a great use of time when travelling. We've tried the timer out a couple of times in our writing group. We've had a writing prompt and then written for 15 minutes. It's amazing what people can come up with in a short time when they set their minds to it.

    I've been trying to set goals with my writing lately. I need to write 3000 words a week to get my draft finished by the end of July. Some weeks it's a cinch. Others weeks ... well it's just not happening. Thanks for the reminder to just sit and write ... one word after another.

    1. Goals are great, but sometimes life happens. I find having dedicated chunks of time works for me. I think I save up a lot of words in my head then they just pour out when given the opportunity!

  3. Wow, Elaine, five thousand words a day is good going. No wonder you needed a rest afterwards! I love the way you use those windows of time you have to write--very inspiring. I'm not one who usually writes to any particular goal or word count in a certain time, but I love that feeling of the words just flowing and mounting up.

    1. We all work and think differently and the Spirit moves in different ways in each of us. It's just a matter of finding what worked for me. I can see you being very deliberate and steady in your approach Jo-Anne. You're probably steady, where I'm sporadic!

  4. Encouraging post, Elaine. I don't have a lot of problem writing when the task is something defined (like "write a 700-word book review which covers these ten points"). It's a lot harder to, say, write a book - possibly because the goal isn't as easy to quantify, and therefore it's not as easy to "succeed".

    Your tips make success possible by breaking down the big task (write a book) into smaller achievable tasks (write 500 words).

    There's a lesson there ...

    1. Thanks, Iola. I find writing a 500 to 700-word blog harder than a book at times. I like being able to just write and write, then fix it afterwards. (Well, send it to you and have you fix it!)

  5. Definitely inspirational :)

  6. Even before I read the author of this piece, I guessed it was you, Elaine, for your positive,get-to- the-point style. Interesting how we all develop style after a period of time. Even in our method of how we write time-wise. I do a lot of mulling over my plot and characters and even though I don't write a plan, it's all in the brain just waiting to be released. Maybe in bursts and definitely without editing as that baulks creativity.

  7. Hi Elaine, Well done on your excellent progress! 5000 words in one day is big achievement. I also like writing in airports and on planes. Although, I do tend to tune out the constant airport announcements and I sit right next to the gate so I can't miss seeing everyone board. I have a day trip to Sydney for work coming up this week, and I'm looking forward to brainstorming and outlining a new book series proposal :)


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