My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

And We're Back! (Writer Vacations)

Aaaaaaand we're back!

I want to thank you all for your patience while I tried to do a little bit to recover from sixteen months of 60-80-hour weeks. I spent some time near nature and water and hiking and having fun. I frolicked. And it was so amazingly rejuvenating. I can't tell you how much more more able and ready I feel to just sit down and do some work. I love my job (and getting to live out the childhood dream is absolutely awesome), but it's not always unicorn rainbow farts all the way to candy mountain. This pandemic has been HARD. 

I've spent a lot of the last year and change turning personal stories into the same small handful of "writerly lessons" (mostly because every damn day was so fucking like the last that there wasn't much more than a couple of ideas I could write about), so I really want to branch out today from some of the usual. Your work/life balance and getting conscious, waking rest are as important to staying creative as is putting in LOTS of hours (probably daily) if you want to achieve some typical value of "making it," you have to keep working even when you're not feeling it to keep your discipline sharp for the times when you really are, and working creatives have to thread that needle (those needles?) carefully—usually landing on the side of too much work.

Also usually while, ironically, feeling like they're never getting enough done. Not that I would know anything about that. Oh no!

So today I want to talk about logistically what vacations look like. I can't speak for every working writer who has ever taken a vacation (or a staycation), but I have a few data points from friends, colleagues, and the process wisdom that household names occasionally share.

I'll spare you the "newly-in-love" details other than to encourage everyone to appreciate flexibility when and where you find it, and instead I will focus on the writing. (And I don't mean like scheduling or morality…NARF!)

The important thing to consider is that most working writers write, even on vacation. Maybe not a lot. Maybe one hour instead of eight. Maybe not on their Work In Progress. Maybe just a poignant Facebook post and a thoughtful email. Maybe not for things under deadline. But they DO write. They hop up an hour before the kids, tuck everyone in, grab an hour while someone else works on a puzzle, steal off with a laptop (or a pen and some paper), and do a bit of writing where they can. They are constantly writing (and reading). For a working writer, not "working" tends to mean not doing certain KINDS of writing, but it rarely means not writing at all. 

For me, writing is only SLIGHTLY less important than food, water, and shelter on my hierarchy of needs. I would no more skip writing because I was on vacation than I would skip meals.

Of course you out there reading this never have to write on vacation if you don't want to, or for even a moment longer than absolutely fulfills you as a human. But the difference between working writers and folks filling the queues of writer Q&A's asking how to "make it" is often whether they look for excuses to write less or look for excuses to write MORE. 

Much like professional musicians take their instruments everywhere (if they're at all portable), and even if they're not rehearsing with the orchestra for those days or working on a concerto, they still play some scales, arpeggios, and rhythm drills just to keep their skill sharp and their craft limber. Or a professional athlete runs a couple of miles just to stay in shape—even if they're not training or practicing with their team. 

So a bit of housekeeping for the folks who are interested in my update schedules or simply fascinated by my process. 

There will at least be one more vacation (probably the same kind of situation—a week with an extra day on either end plus the weekends) in the next month or two. When you're a crowdfunded content creator, sometimes it's difficult, even guiltifying, to take more than a day off here or there when absolutely sick or unavoidably busy. However the burnout from the last sixteen months really got into my bones. This vacation was SO rejuvenating, but it's a little like eating a full meal when you're absolutely (and non hyperbolically) starving. It helps, but you can tell you're going to need to eat again before some official designated meal time. 

After that, I'm still going to take total-time-off vacations. (I realized just before this one that since I started blogging, I haven't had more than a couple of days completely off—that I wasn't sick—since I stopped going to Burning Man. I've been doing "half on" working vacations for years now.) However, I will start spacing them out at a somewhat more typical pace—probably woven in and out with some of the working kind.

I'm also going to force myself to keep taking Thursdays off FOR NOW. My guilty content-creator brain is screaming, but I am not quite down to the nanny schedule I want, and Wednesdays are usually 8 or more hours. (My ideal schedule is about 10 hours a week, I've asked for no more than 15, and right now I'm still going over that every payroll week.) So for now I'll keep taking Thursday off.

I may have to go back to a pre-pandemic "square one" in my search for the work/life balance that lets me be a working writer but not a workaholic, but I’ll make sure I don’t forget everything I learned back in 2019, when I did a lot of my work trying to get my life in balance. Working hard is important if you want to "make it," but treating yourself like a human who needs rest is important if what "makes it" is to have a life worth living.

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