If you’ve developed the hard-won habit of putting in time writing regularly, battling the forces of resistance and self-doubt to get your butt in the seat and your pen to page or fingers to keyboard, what happens when a vacation comes along and changes your routine?
The slippery slope of not writing
As someone who struggled for years to carve out time to write, the notion of setting aside my work for even a few days makes me a bit twitchy. I know all too well the dangers of that oh-so-slippery slope back down into procrastination.
And, at the same time, as a life coach who believes in pacing and having a balanced life, I suspect that taking breaks and vacations from everything, including writing, is important — for if nothing else than to refill your creative well.
This summer, I’ve been conducting experiments with my vacation time to see what works well for me and what doesn’t, along with studying the results of the writers in my online Writer’s Circle to see what happens for them.
Here’s what I notice: For those aforementioned writers with hard-won writing habits, taking a break from writing can be both refreshing and disruptive. I’m coming to see the disruptive as unavoidable. Life happens, after all — if it’s not a vacation, there’s always something ready to throw us off course.
But how do we get back on track with our writing as smoothly as possible?
To write or not to write… on vacation?
First, let’s take a look at the options for writing or not writing while on vacation:
Option 1. Continue writing during your trip, matching your normal levels of writing. Give some thought to how, when, and where you’ll be writing so you can be clear about how you’ll go about doing it.
Option 2. Continue writing during your trip, but cut back your expectations significantly. For example, if you’re accustomed to writing for 60 minutes every day, try writing for 15.
Option 3. Stop writing for the duration of the trip but make a plan for how you’ll get back on track when you return.
Here are some of the common challenges writers face when it comes to writing while on vacation:
- Being overly optimistic about the impact that other people’s agendas will have on you — unless you’re by yourself, they will.
- Not planning for ways to deal with the impact of other people’s agendas and schedules — like setting boundaries or planning for writing time.
- Believing that you’ll be able to “fit it in” on the fly (sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t).
- Feeling like you’re not getting a true break and wanting / needing one and spiraling into a place of resistance about it.
And here are the challenges I see writers facing when they don’t write while they’re away:
- Falling off the wagon and struggling to get back on track with your writing once you get home.
- Feeling disconnected from your script and building up a sense that you won’t be able to pick up where you left off.
- Enjoying the time off and not wanting to go back to being disciplined.
- Feeling guilty for not writing.
It’s clear to me that there is not a right answer, but a choice to be made. Which one is right for you, for this vacation?
Easing the transition
Regardless of what you do while you’re away, once you’ve returned home, if you encounter any kind of resistance to writing, you’ll want to create a plan to ease the transition back into your regular writing habit.
First, do you want to give yourself a cushion of time of not writing before you start in again? A few days off to adjust from jet lag or catch up with getting resettled? Or do you want to dive back in? Be clear about what you’re doing, and be ready to be flexible. Do pick a start-again date, and begin at any of the below levels that feels ridiculously easy — so easy that your inner critic laughs at you and goes away to bother someone else.
On the first day back, try one of the following:
- Open the document you were working on, review where you were, then close it again. You’re done.
- Or, open the document, review what you’ve done, and spend some time refining it (even just a few minutes).
- If you’re ready for more, start by writing for anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes (or some smaller increment than your usual targets). Then call it a day.
- Or if you’re up for it, jump right back in to your regular writing schedule (you have one, right?).
Each subsequent day, work up to the next level until you’ve regained your regular pattern.
The most important thing to remember is that we all occasionally fall off the writing path, and the key is to get back on it as gracefully as possible. I’ve seen too many writers let themselves get thrown off by a vacation then flounder around trying to get back on track. Yes, of course we take time off. And we want to make sure it doesn’t disrupt you in the long term.
It’s about most of the time
Writing regularly is a bit like dieting or exercising. Of course they get disrupted from time to time — and often by vacations as well. That’s totally natural. But remember, it’s not how you eat all of the time, it’s how you eat most of the time. The same can be said for writing — it’s not that you write all of the time, it’s that you write most of the time. How do you want to keep your writing habit on track when it comes to vacations?