Writer…Uninterrupted – during vacation

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a writing-free vacation. I am always chanting the importance of writing every day to my creative writing students and my clients, so a writing-free week really goes against my grain. For me, and probably for you, too, writing is as enjoyable as it is work. It’s hard to leave behind.

Yet, spending time with my family was more important.

Some vacations have a bit of downtime built in, where you could probably write and it wouldn’t interfere with the general plans. But, if you’re vacationing with family/friends, you want to make sure that you are present. Be there fully with them, genuinely.

Consider the stereotypical businessman with his cell phone on the beach. Spending too much time writing when you should be bonding with your traveling companions can be a big mistake.

Below are a few tips I learned over the years on how to manage the writing when you’re not writing.

  • Plan not to write. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s actually hard if you’re in the middle of a project you love. Tell yourself as often as you can that you won’t be working while away on vacation, but that you’ll be coming back, refreshed, with awesome ideas. This will help take the sting out of the temporary split.

  • Before you take off to that tropical resort, try to leave your WIP at a natural transitioning point. Between drafts is the best situation, if possible, because you really should leave your WIP alone for a few weeks after each draft you write anyway.

  • Read for enjoyment’s sake. Reading helps writers become better at their craft, so this is a nice way of working without working.

  • Read up on the industry. Writers always have lots of homework, which is hard to get in on top of life, writing, and social media. Take advantage of that 4-hour plane ride and bone up on the writing and publishing industry.

  • Work on your business plan, if you’re writing with the intent of publication.

    The next two suggestions are for the writer who will suffer a small break in her sanity if she doesn’t write something at least once a day. Now, this goes against the “not writing while on vacation” gist of my post, but it needs to be acknowledged: Some writers are diehards, addicted to story, and if they aren’t writing on paper, they’re going to write in their heads anyway.

    But, use these suggestions with caution, making sure you are still respecting the wishes and needs of your family/companion. Vacation is meant to give your mind, body, and spirit a chance to revitalize, which can only benefit your muse.

  • Bring a small notebook with you. Small enough to tuck into your back pocket, boot, or purse. Clip a small pen to the notebook. Only jot down ideas that randomly strike you.

  • Consider bringing a character with you instead of the whole story. Preferably a character you don’t know much about yet. Develop the character through character sketches, questionnaires, poems, scenes, dialogue, or backstory.

What about you? Do you write when you’re on vacation? What tricks have you learned?

 

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39 thoughts on “Writer…Uninterrupted – during vacation

  1. Great post Kate. This same thing can apply to anything really that people find it hard to take a break from – I think giving yourself permission to take a break without feeling guilty is key, as is realising that you will have grown in some way, even if it’s just a small way, by allowing yourself that break and that can only enhance things when you come back to them.

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  2. God, what I wouldn’t give for a holiday…golden beaches, clear blue water, palm trees…perfect setting to work on my shipwrecked novel idea 😏 “d’oh!”

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    • It’s tough with really little kids, because I’m not convinced you can take a true vacation when you have kids under the age of 7. And that might even be pushing it! One day, you’ll get to those sunny beaches, Darren, what a great excuse for “research”!

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  3. I loved this Kate, good points, all. Ironically I felt much more free on vacation with my daughter when she was little – I knew that later when she was in school our travels would be limited, and they were. So that was a plus for us. 🙂

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  4. I thought the idea of bringing a character with you was sweet. I imagined the scene much like a movie (such as the movie Harvey with Jimmy Stewart), the author on holiday, walking along the beach, his or her character walking two steps behind.

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  5. Awesome post, Kate doll! So important for us writers to take off and I like that you offered reading as a healthy substitute on vacation, because it absolutely is.

    I have given myself the month of March off from any novel writing/tinkering. I’ve really been enjoying hanging out with Mr. H and the cats, catching up with family on the phone, keeping my apartment clean, and enjoying real life away from staring at my laptop constantly.

    April is around the corner and I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to dive into a new project just yet. If I do, it’s going to be a little toe dip in the water. 🙂

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    • You’re smart to take those kinds of breaks, Britt, even if you aren’t going to a tropical beach. I need to be better at that — to tell myself it’s okay to leave the book for a few days, especially if I’m not feeling the vibe. Both the book and I will be better for it!

      Good luck to your return come April. I always feel a resurgence of energy and spirit in the spring, so your timing sounds great to me!

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  6. I hope you had a great vacation! It really does help to get away from it all every once in a while. I’ll usually bring a small journal but only for describing things that we saw or did each day. Sometimes that can turn into a story but it’s also fun for remembering it all later. But the best part about a vacation is that chance to sit back and read.

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    • I love reading on vacation. It’s the only time I don’t feel rushed to get through a book. I usually bring two or three with me, as I still don’t enjoy reading on a device. Keeping a journal of your travels is a wonderful way to satiate the writer in you, methinks. I enjoy especially to write descriptions of the scenery and people.

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  7. Great suggestions. One of my favorite things about traveling is going offline and having reading time. It’s so important to be in the moment and not be distracted with your WIP. I usually try to plan a natural break in my writing when I have a big trip so I can take a little breather and not feel guilty. 🙂

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    • I find the natural break in a project makes it so much easier to leave it behind for a while. I’m a big proponent of letting my story drafts marinate before I mess around with them again, so this method works especially well for me. And you’re right, anything to keep the guilt away is a big deal!

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    • Hey, at least we’re being open and honest about our cheating! 🙂 For too long, I felt supreme guilt when my writing interfered with life. I finally had to make some compromises. I’ll never totally stop writing, but I refuse to feel bad about it anymore. These tips help me out a lot. Hope you find them useful!

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  8. Very good advice and one I need to follow. I always read the mantra “write every single day or you’re doomed…” and feel like a bit of a failure when I prioritize differently. I’m really glad you got away; the soul needs it!

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    • I’m one of those people who is pounding that mantra into the heads of the young and innocent. 😉 I do believe that writing every day is crucial to our artistic growth and confidence, but I think we can fill the well in other ways when writing isn’t a possibility. Also, I think it’s a mistake to write only one kind of thing simply because that’s the project of the moment. It’s better to try our hand at different types of writing, and often. That way we aren’t so dependent on that one major project (I learned this lesson the hard way!)

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  9. I’m just finishing up a vacation and have been away from the Internet (mostly) and my writing for several days. As you mention, it’s best to be on vacation when we’re on vacation. It’s no fun for our family if we’re spending time on our laptops. (In fact, I didn’t even bring mine. Just my iPad.) But while traveling, I still take pictures and take notes of details I might use for future fiction, so you’re right: writing is always on our minds. 🙂

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    • I’m glad you got a chance for a vacation — hope you had lovely weather! I didn’t bring my laptop on my vacation either, but I did bring a notebook. I jotted ideas down while the kids went swimming or if I was up and ready before anyone else.

      Taking pictures is another great idea to help satiate that writer self, as I’m always seeing stories in pictures. I’ll have to add that one to the list. Thanks for the idea!

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  10. Pingback: Books as Traveling Companions | Sheila Hurst

  11. I’d always write a travel journal on vacation – so not my normal fiction, but it satisfied the need to write while still being present in where I was. These last few years we’ve tended to go back to the same vacation spot in the forest, where there is little else to do but walk, read and write (that’s not a complaint, it’s a blessing!)

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  12. Great advice Kate. I’m happy to say that I already practice most of which you pointed out. And, oh, yes, I am still one though, who takes with a very small journal to jot fleeting thoughts in. 🙂

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  13. I’m not a writer in a professional way but I can understand your point. It applies to everything we’re so attached to in life, isn’t it? Taking a break resets the mind, rejuvenates the body and stirs up those creative juices again. I’d say for a writer, maybe bring a notebook to write down some quick scribbles? And reading, absolutely! Certainly benefits the muse, like you said.

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