Create Your Own Virtual Writers Sabbatical

by Richelle Lyn
published in Writing

Seeking Travelers For the 2021 Virtual Writers Sabbatical

I started my writing career just shy of 50, so I’ve been playing catch up with my writing craft. After DIY MFA 101 opened me up to the wonderful world of writing, I was hooked. I dove into a writing craft quest—taking more classes and listening to hundreds of podcasts over the next couple of years, but I still wanted to learn more.

I’m also a wanderer at heart, and one of my favorite places to be is on a trip exploring a new city or returning to one that I love. I learned in my twenties that I was much happier when I had a scheduled trip to look forward to; but since traveling wasn’t feasible for me in 2020, I made a concerted effort to spend more of my home-bound time focusing on my writing craft. 

I won’t lie. I still spent more time than I should have binge-watching TV, and my 2020 learning was a mish-mash of content that I picked out on the fly. But overall, my writing ended 2020 better off thanks to this decision. So, as I planned for 2021 and another fluid year ahead, I decided to up my game and focus on my quest for generating creativity and adding some of the specialty tools that are missing from my writer’s toolkit—rather than leaving it up to chance.

I invite you to join me on the 2021 Virtual Writers Sabbatical, which will hopefully inspire and challenge you to carve out focused time this year to grow your mind, sharpen your writing skills, have some fun, fill your heart, and finish 2021 stronger than you started it. Couldn’t we all use a little bit of that right now?  

So, if you’re ready, let’s get this Sabbatical started. 

Book Your 2021 Virtual Writers Sabbatical

First up is travel planning. Set aside 30-60 minutes to focus on the first four steps below. That should be enough time to get your initial itinerary set up and your back brain percolating on detours you want to take. Plan another 30-60 minute session the following week to finalize your plans and focus on the last step.

Check Your Calendar

When will you travel in 2021, and how much time can you commit to your Sabbatical?  Weekdays or weekends, full days or shorter sessions spread out, are some months better than others?  Find the happy medium between setting an unattainable goal that will defeat you and one that doesn’t move the needle. 

Most schedules are jam-packed these days, so you will likely have to stop doing something else. But even if you give up just one hour of television each week for the rest of the year, you will have spent as much time as if you had dedicated a week of vacation to your craft. 

Build Your Destination Bucket List 

Okay, now for the fun part. Brainstorm and jot down the activities that excite you:  

  • Is there an online writing class or conference you can’t stop thinking about?  If not, ask other writers for recommendations.
  • Is there a specific writing technique or skill you want to obtain or improve?  
  • Does your To Be Read pile trend towards a specific genre, category, or author you would like to become an expert on?  
  • Is there a writing group you’ve wanted to join?  Finding a writing group that’s a perfect fit takes time, so don’t rush this one. But, when you find your peeps, thank your lucky stars every day for them.
  • Is there a writing podcast series (or two) that you can binge listen to?
  • Non-writing hobbies can spark your writing inspiration and creativity genes. When was the last time you tried a new hobby?

Finalize Your Itinerary and Map Your Route 

You can always modify your itinerary and explore the side-streets you discover on your journey, but you need a roadmap to start with. Your bucket list likely contains more items than your time allows, so prioritize your list either by what inspires you or what you think will move the needle the most. Estimate how long the first five items will take, then pick the ones that fit your time target best. These are your starting destinations. 

Block off time in your calendar to start your first tour. Bonus points if you block off time now for the whole year. Otherwise, make sure to calendar your second tour when you finish the first, and so on; and reassess your destinations periodically.

Seek Traveling Companions

Sabbaticals are often meant to be spent alone, but writing is already a very solitary experience; so consider inviting others to join some of your tours:

  • Host a Zoom call with your writer friends to share what you learned at an online conference – and ask them to do the same. 
  • Join a writing critique group.
  • Start a book club focused on the trends in your TBR pile.
  • Invite your friends or family to binge watch the streaming series you just finished reading. Then analyze for them how it differed from the book and which you liked better. (Better yet, get them to read the book with you first!)

Pack Your Bags, Build Your Playlist, and Pitch Your Tent 

Now it’s time to focus on How and Where. First, pack the supplies, books, and non-perishable snacks you’ll need in a travel bag; so you’re ready to go if a time slot opens up at the last minute. Then, purchase your entry tickets to courses in advance, so you don’t waste your trip time surfing the internet. Subscribe to podcasts and create or download your writing music playlist now. Finally, find a secluded place in or around your home, car, or community where you can spend your trips. 

Share Your Destinations and Rediscover Your Creativity

My 2021 Virtual Writers Sabbatical destinations include completing a book coaching class; improving my Show, Don’t Tell skills; doubling down on my writing community and critique group involvement; reading multiple books on creativity, story building, coaching, and editing as well as rebooting my fiction reading which I struggled with last year; and binge watching TV shows and movies set in Ireland and the U.K. as research for my story. 

An early lightbulb moment emerged for me during a book coaching class exercise I did on “My Why.”  This is different from identifying your protagonist’s theme. Rather, it’s closer to identifying your purpose—why this story, why now, why…, why…, why…  The assignment seemed straight forward until I sat down to do it. It took me six attempts to finish because each attempt turned into hours of cathartic journaling and inspiring insight on why I chose Maddie to be my first leading lady. I loved the exercise so much that I shared it with my critique group. Have you thought about your Why?

An early read for me was Creativity, Inc., which I’ve been recommending to anyone who will listen; but more on that in a future post. 

I can’t wait to swap stories on our adventures throughout 2021. Good luck, and off you go…

What are your 2021 Virtual Writers Sabbatical destinations?  

Let us know in the comments or on social media!

Richelle Lyn is a compensation & benefits attorney and HR executive, who is now chasing her second career as a writer. Her favorite reads are mysteries and contemporary fiction, and she is writing her first YA mystery novel. She loves her tea hot and her coffee iced. She calls South Florida home, but her favorite place to be is on a trip. You can check her out on Instagram (@MindYourGapTrip) and Twitter (@Richelle_Lyn_).

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