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Photo by Laura Bernhein
Happy 2008 everyone! This top ten list of travel writer resolutions is dedicated to each of you who has been pouring your energy and dedication into the craft of travel writing. Let’s take it up another notch in 2008.
10. Come up with an idea a day. This doesn’t mean you have to write everyday—though that would be nice, too— but it does mean that if you come up with a single idea every day in 2008, you’ll have a storehouse of 365 ideas that you can draw from when you’re low on inspiration.
9. Read and respond to others’ work. One of the best pieces of advice for any writer is to read. But take your reading a step further and be sure to respond once in awhile to other writers whose work interests you, challenges you, or confuses you. Read beyond your favorite sites, magazines, and books. Use others’ writing to stimulate dialog.
8. Develop at least one new skill to complement your writing. Want to become the go-to person for your editors in 2008? Learn how to provide photographs, video clips, and extra audio content. If you don’t already have the equipment to develop one or more of these skills, you can purchase affordable and relatively simple cameras and digital recorders and begin experimenting with their various applications.
7. Make contacts. Whether you’re just getting started or you’re a seasoned travel writer, building your contacts and your network won’t just help your travel writing; it will help your travel, too. Cultivate contacts as much as your writing and offer more than you ask for.
6. Read like a travel writer. You probably already read voraciously, but do you read everything from the perspective of a travel writer? Changing your lens as a reader may help you to acquire some narrative skills you might attribute solely to other genres. My recommendations? Poetry by Mary Oliver, Natasha Trethewey, and William Stafford, and non-fiction by Annie Dillard for starters.
5. Collaborate and create opportunities. Many travel writers are solo travelers and solo writers, but collaboration may yield some interesting new ideas and finished pieces worthy of publication. Also, keep your eye out for opportunities, not just for yourself, but for other writers and photographers in your network. When they appear, share them along generously.
4. Begin developing a niche. This year, get clear about what kind of travel writing you’d like to be known for. Your niche may be defined by a specific geographical area, it may be defined by a particular type of travel interest (fishing, for example), or it may be characterized by a specific genre within travel writing—first person travelogues, how-tos, and destination guides.
3. But don’t limit yourself. Although it’s helpful for you and your readers when you define a niche for yourself, don’t limit yourself to your preferred areas. Once in awhile, challenge yourself and your readers by doing something totally different. Me? I’m not a sports and recreation person, but I plan to challenge myself to take a three hour kayaking trip on the Hudson River later this year and, of course, write about it.
2. Be spontaneous, but plan ahead. Think about the signal events of 2008 and see how you might be able to craft a story. Look at each month and identify an opportunity for a story and an angle from which you can approach it. For example, you may not go to the Beijing Olympics, but maybe a local athlete is training and would make a great story. Don’t overlook annual events that occur in your regions of particular interest: bull runs in Pamplona, Carnaval in Brazil, or the country fair in your own back yard. Mark these on your calendar and begin pitching to your potential contacts well in advance for great leads.
1. Collect your clips. As you begin building up a collection of published pieces, be sure to create an archive that can be accessed quickly and easily, both for yourself and for prospective editors, interviewees, and other important contacts. Create a digital version and a print version, and make sure you’re able to access both when you’re on the road… you never know when opportunity may present itself.