|Contented author at the taffrail of MS Zaandam. Photo by the Lady Friend.|
Last month the Lady Friend and I traveled to Hawaii by rail and sail. We rode Amtrak's Southwest Chief to Los Angeles, thence a Surfliner train to San Diego, where we took ship aboard the Holland America cruise liner Zaandam. Five days over, four days there, five days back.
Of course it was a splendid and relaxing cruise, but I won't bore you with the touristy details. Though I hadn't planned it that way, the trip turned out to be a working vacation. Rather than spend all the hours at sea reading (pleasant enough in itself), I sat down in the ship's library shortly after the Zaandam stood out from Honolulu Harbor the last day in Hawaii and started writing another Steve Martinez novel, the fifth. Working title: Tracking the Beast. Railroad theme, you know.
By the time we reached San Diego, there were seven new chapters and more than 10,000 words in the iPad.
Now I understand why Alex Haley chose to write The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots aboard tramp steamers sailing the world. There's something about an ocean voyage that's conducive to both concentration and creativity. Maybe it's the gentle rocking of the ship, maybe it's the regular routine at sea, maybe it's something else.
I've long done some of my best work while riding trains, for much the same reasons. Now there's another way to get some writing under the belt—and have fun while doing it.
LATER: Someone asked if I was planning to write off part of the cruise on my Schedule C. That's tempting, but tax law is clear: Writeoffs based on work aboard a cruise ship can be taken only if the ship is U.S. flagged and if it does not stop in a foreign port. No such animal afloat.