You Owe Yourself a Writing Vacation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t know when the term “staycation” was coined, but since becoming a homeowner in the mid-2000s I have taken a good number of them, partly because I like my house and I like working to make it feel ever more like my ideal home, and partly because, having a house and family to take care of, we have no money for a “real” vacation.

Over the past few years, my husband and I have taken a couple staycations during which we did no painting, weeding, laundry, or dishes, but instead planted our butts on the couch, steadily fed the fireplace logs, and wrote. If you do this for a week and don’t allow yourself distractions (make sure your kids are in school) you can get an astonishing number of words out of your head and into your story.

This past weekend we did one better. We left everything–child, pets, chores, and, most importantly, any possibility of a wifi connection–and spent three days writing at a friend’s cottage on Gun Lake. We fed the fire. We made some simple meals. We did spend an hour or so at the casino one night (largely because we wanted ice cream and there’s a Cold Stone Creamery in there). We spent about ten minutes trying unsuccessfully to catch a bat that was flying around the living room one night (after it was clear that we wouldn’t catch him, we named him Briscoe and left him alone). Other than that, we were pretty much planted in two comfortable chairs a few feet from the fireplace with laptops open and fingers tapping away.

I started a short story Friday afternoon, finished it Saturday, had my husband read it and give feedback Saturday night, and had it ready to convert for Kindle on Sunday morning. During that time I also read most of the Gospel of Mark, and all of Luke and John. I also had plenty of time to stare mindlessly out the window at the frozen and snow covered lake. And here’s the thing: I didn’t miss anything.

When we returned to a place that had wifi and I checked my emails and looked at Facebook, I found that, though the world had gone on without me for a few days, it hadn’t gone very far. My retreat made a difference in the scheme of my writing life and my husband’s; we got some work done, we allowed ourselves some space to breathe and relax and be creative, we enjoyed each other’s company without needing to interrupt our thoughts to rationalize to our son our assertion that he had watched enough Ironman: Armored Adventures for one day. But our retreat didn’t stop the world from getting on with things (and things that, frankly, didn’t concern us in the least–like the Oscars).

If you have a day job and writing is a luxury, you need to take a weekend or a week here and there and take a writing vacation. Whether you stay at home (and can keep yourself from wasting time with keeping the place clean) or just get a hotel room in your own town or have a generous friend with a house on a lake and no Internet, you need to make the time. No one can take the time for you. No one cares about your writing in the way you can. And if you don’t make time for it, it won’t happen.

Now then, I have one more day I’ve taken off of work and it’s starting to get away from me. There are paint cans calling me down in the main floor bathroom and, since I’ve finished my story for next month, I think I will go answer their call.

As for you, get out your calendar, pick a day or two or ten, and write “Writing Vacation” there. Write it in pen.

8 thoughts on “You Owe Yourself a Writing Vacation

  1. I keep telling my husband that I need to get away from the house, the kids, EVERYTHING for a few days so I can concentrate on my writing. He is not a creative mind, but rather a tinkerer, so he doesn’t fully grasp the beauty of uninterrupted. Even the smallest distractions (a child asking for a drink or someone turning the iPod up too loud) are enough to pull me out of the moment. I’d like to become the person who can be prolific no matter my surroundings…. but I’m not there yet.

    Thank you for taking time to put this into words, Erin!

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