The Prague Summer Program makes a point of giving you ample free time to use as you need. Of course, exploring Prague and traveling is a fine way to use this time (more on that in our other blog posts) but we like to think of the PSP as a generative study-abroad program. The time we give you is yours to use for your writing and, as past students will tell you, the program director Richard Katrovas is particularly open to spontaneously reading work you have just written. Finding time to write can be a challenge even when we´re at home, let alone abroad, but, if you are planning to study abroad as a creative writer, don’t forget to give yourself some time to generate new work. Here are a few tips that might come in handy.
Stay in the Moment: Limit Social Media
At home, you might find yourself thinking about writing…and failing miserably due to distractions. Perhaps you tell yourself, “I’ll just check my Facebook feed once before I begin,” or, “I’ll scroll through Instagram one more time before I begin.” Whatever your social networking poison might be, I’m pretty sure we all know what happens next. An hour later, sometimes several hours later, you have been hooked and your writing life has paid the price. If you are studying abroad, you may feel even more inclined than usual to use social media because you, understandably, want to share your travel experience with folks back home. Do yourself a favor and delete your social networking apps, block Facebook from your web browser, and for the sake of your loved ones, stop taking pictures of your food. Don’t check how many likes your post received. Instead, put that energy into writing. Write an essay about getting lost in Prague. If non-fiction isn´t your thing, write an imaginary interview with the Golem. Stay in the moment. Stay focused.
Take Risks as a Writer (not Just as a Traveler)
Sometimes, letting yourself be swept up in the experience of travel is good for you as a writer. It´s only half the work, however. What starts as exploration can quickly turn into procrastination and subsequent guilt for time lost. The issue is that there is a difference between exploring and taking risks as a traveler and doing so as a writer. The Prague Summer Program has a few useful tips to keep you on the ball.
- The PSP schedule includes many free mornings and afternoons. Use these to work and leave the fun for your extended weekends. If you sit down to write and nothing happens, use this time to plan which weekday morning or afternoon you will try again. Plan what you will attempt to write when the time comes.
- Pick a place to work, either in the calm silence of your hotel room (if you have a single) or in a public space conducive to productivity. Prague is full of cafés and the public parks around the Inos hotel offer many nooks to work in private.
- Write spontaneously. Carry a notebook and allow yourself to jot things down even as you are traveling and exploring the city. If you end up writing something outside of your scheduled work time, edit it when your scheduled time arrives.
- Take advantage of workshop writing assignments. They´re usually not mandatory, but they can be a lot of fun and usually offer an opportunity for research around Prague.
- Make a point of showing at least one freshly-written piece to Richard Katrovas during the month of the PSP – even if it´s just one inchoate paragraph! The experience of having something new edited during a conference and, if it´s a fragment, discussing how it could fit into a finished piece is instructive in a different way than discussing work you think you have completed. More importantly, sharing work which you have just written can shatter a lot of barriers which cause writer´s block in the first place.
- Being in a foreign place makes it more natural to try new things. Take advantage of the spirit of exploration while abroad and make a point of trying something new in your writing – an unfamiliar genre, a subject you have never had the courage to write about, the point of view of a character intimidatingly different from yourself. Step outside your comfort zone, not just as a traveler but as a writer.
- Don´t be wed to the work you write while abroad. Maybe you´ll never use any of it in your published writing. Embracing imperfection and incompleteness is a major milestone in becoming a more productive artist because it means you can have fun while you create. Make it about the journey, not the destination.