Greetings from The Road, and Happy Hanukkah to all of you. I’m going to keep this (relatively) short because I’m on vacation, but I did want to post. (We’re in Virginia today, visiting friends; tomorrow we drive to upstate New York to see family.) And since I’m on the road at vacation time, I thought I’d post about how I handle vacations from a writing standpoint.
As I’ve written here before, I do my best to keep my writing time limited to work hours, to not allow work to intrude on personal time. Yes, I’m an author. But I’m also a husband and a dad, and I have things I like to do that have nothing to do with writing. Well, when I’m traveling, particularly for the holidays, I like to focus on family, on the people I’m visiting (or, in other years, the people who are visiting us), and on having some down time to recharge the creative batteries.
By the same token, I’ve also written before that I’m a momentum writer. I do best when I write every day, building on the previous day’s work and energy. So if I’m traveling for an extended period — anything more than a long weekend — I try to bring some work with me. I’ll bring my notes, my maps, any computer files that I’ve worked on, and any other materials that I might need should I find time to work.
But more importantly, I bring realistic expectations. I don’t bring my writing stuff on a one-week trip and think, “Hmmm. Maybe I can get a chapter written.” That’s just not going to happen. Writing outside of my usual environment slows me down, so expecting myself to churn out as many pages at a friend’s house as I would at home makes no sense at all. I’m just setting myself up for failure. Instead I look for small tasks that can be completed in limited amounts of time in between meals and snowball fights and fun time with people I love. For this trip my expectations are very simple. I have a book coming out in January — The Horsemen’s Gambit, book II of Blood of the Southlands, will be out on January 20th. So I have some promotional stuff that I need to write. None of it is very long, it shouldn’t be difficult to write. But it will take some time.
The point is, it’s a discreet task that I can fit in to a holiday trip. I can expect myself to do this without setting myself up for disappointment. I can do a little work and still enjoy the holidays. As with so much else, this is one of those “Your approach might be different” moments. But if you are traveling this holiday, or if you’re entertaining, or if you just enjoy relaxing during the holidays and feel like taking time off between now and New Year’s, by all means do so. Yes, you can bring work along, or sit down at your desk to get a few pages written. But make certain that whatever you set out to do in the next week or so is manageable under holiday circumstances. We’re about to start a New Year. This is a great time to set new goals for yourself and tap into fresh energy. (More on that next week.) The last thing you want to do is start the New Year feeling that you failed to meet your goals for the last week of this year.