February 23, 2010

Subject: How do you balance vacation with writing?

Sorry for the long absence! I lugged my computer along with me for mid-winter break, confident that I would find time to work on my short story, write a few blog posts, and draft my novel synopsis. And as with most other vacations, I managed to do no work at all.

Of course, a vacation is a vacation, right? I’m always encouraging my husband (ok, nagging him) to set email aside when we head out of town, and yet I hold myself to a different standard. I want to continue my work. The dictum “Write every day” haunts me (ok, nags at me). I feel guilty for not working, even though I’m on vacation. (Definition: freedom from occupation.)

I believe that part of this expectation to work is a result of being a mother first and a writer second. I’ve learned to squeeze my work schedule into specific time periods. I adjust my schedule around calls to pick up a sick child or changes in carpool plans. So when a school holiday rolls around, in my mind, I plan to write whenever I have the chance.

It never works that way. The moment I head out of town, my mind turns blank. Sometimes, I never even open my computer. I rarely jot anything down in my notebook. Why can’t I be like those authors who spin their stories out in their minds when away from their writing instruments? Why can’t I be more disciplined, like Charles Darwin, and find inspiration in my surroundings?

It’s as if my mind puts up a little sign: “On vacation.” The premises, for a short time, are as empty as my house. Vacant. Did you know that vacation and vacant share the same root word? According to Wordnik, the Latin word vacare means “to be empty.”

Of course, if you’re empty, then you have plenty of room to fill the well, and while I didn’t write at all on vacation, I read plenty. And more importantly, I spent time with my family, which is truly fulfilling.

What are your feelings about vacation? One advantage of being a writer is the ability to work anywhere. Do you try to write while on vacation? Or do you truly get away? If you do work, how do you balance your time. I'd love to hear your ideas and thoughts.


  1. Love to write on vacation then, when I get home, spend a week not writing and really enjoying the rhythms of everyday life with the kids. It's like having two vacations in a row!

  2. Sounds like a great way to get back into normal life! Inevitably, those days after vacation are filled with catching up, so it makes sense not to plan on a lot of work then.

    Hope your writing is going well!