Vacations and Creativity


Greetings from the road.  By the time you read this, I’ll be in the Big Apple.  But I that doesn’t mean that I can’t post here at MW — ah, the wonders of modern technology.  You couldn’t do this with 19th century blogs, you know….

 How do I balance work and time off?  I’m on vacation now, but I don’t want to lose the momentum I had going in the weeks leading up to this time off.  I have a short story I need to write and I have issues to work out on the book I’m rewriting.  But I also know that I’m not going to have much time to sit down in front of the computer and write.  More to the point, this is supposed to be down time, family time.  I don’t want to be working too much.  So how do I keep the creative process moving forward without working away my vacation time?

As I’ve written before, I never travel without a notebook.  I keep it handy all the time, so that as ideas occur to me, I can jot them down for future use.  Because for me, the key to keeping that momentum and managing to have a vacation, is not working, and not even thinking about work all the time, but allowing myself to relax and address ideas as they occur to me.  I can’t force ideas into my head.  I have to wait them out.  I happen to be at a point with both the short story and my WIP where I’m not entirely certain what comes next.  The ideas will come — they always do.  But I can’t make them come.  What I can do, is allow myself to have fun, to rest and recharge my creative batteries.  At the same time, I can keep the stories in my thoughts.  I’ll be driving a lot this trip.  I’ll be in museums.  I’ll have time to let my mind wander, and that will help me work through the issues that are slowing me down right now.

As Stuart Jaffe told us a couple of weeks ago, there are times when we should not write.  I would add this:  it’s okay to take time off and play.  In fact, without those breaks writing  becomes a chore, something we can come to dread.  Playing doesn’t mean forgetting about work entirely.  I’m not even sure that I could do such a thing.  But playing does allow me time to focus my mind elsewhere.  It’s a bit like trying to summon a memory — a name, a date — that just won’t come.  The more you concentrate, the more elusive it becomes.  But as soon as you stop trying to remember, there it is.  Same with these problems I’m having with the story and my WIP.  I’ve been pushing too hard in the last few days.  Now that I’m on vacation, though, I can turn my mind elsewhere.  And as soon as I do, the ideas will come. 

And I’ll jot them down in my notebook.

How do you use your down time for your writing?  I’ll respond to comments when I have access to the internet again.


3 comments to Vacations and Creativity

  • Hi David. Enjoy your vac time. Get rejuvenated!

    I took a psych class years ago and they called the mental process *prime and wait*. Like when one primes an old well pump by giving the handle several pumps until the water starts to flow. My daddy had a boat with an outboard motor and we had to hand pump a bulb to get the gas up through the gas line to the motor before we could crank it.

    Like you, I use prime and wait a lot. And I’ve discovered that when I paddle a river, my mind is wiped clean of the daily detritus to totally prime and wait. It is the only place my writing seems to disappear and my mind is free. Oddly, when I sit back down and write, always *something* new and exciting is there, ready for the page.
    Have fun!
    Hugs to you and family,

  • Have a lovely vacation, sweetie! And if you happen to drop over to Tor’s offices and run into David and Stacy, tell ’em I said “Hey!”

    One of the neat things about being away from the familiar is … well, being away from the familiar. It sparks thoughts that the usual sights don’t, thoughts that add dimension to the work. 😀

  • I used to always carry around a small pocket sized notebook to jot down story ideas. Also, when I worked in McDonalds I would grab one of those paper liners they used to put on the tray and write on the back of them.

    These days if I’m stuck away from my computer I can jot down a note in my phone.

    Have a great time in NYC. I know I’m jaded having been born and raised there, but no other place I’ve been to measures up.