Are you going on vacation this summer? Are you taking your writing with you?
Even asking such a question says something about the vocation, or avocation, that we love. For what nurse, accountant, librarian, or barista takes work with them on vacation? Yet as writers we do this all the time—or feel guilty if we don’t.
Why do we do this? Is it an actual fleshing out of the old saw: “I can’t not write”? Or is it something else? Fear perhaps that people will forget us, that we’ll lose the momentum we think we’ve gained, that our drive and enthusiasm will evaporate in the sun of more laid-back days, that we’ll forget how to write?
I believe in taking a vacation from writing. Here’s why:
1. God is okay with no-work days.
His plan is a one-in-seven day off (Sabbath) per week. On top of that, the instructions for the feast days that were part of Israel’s annual calendar are full of the repetitious: “You are to do no customary work” (Leviticus 23).
What was to fill the time of no work? A focus on Him.
The extra time we take during our vacation to focus on God will probably do more for our faith, the ordering of our priorities, and our peace of mind about every aspect of life, including our writing, than any number of words written under the whip of duty.
2. When we are fully present in our vacation, we get writing ideas.
Paying attention to the places we visit and the people we see opens us up to life and the ability to portray it more fully. We can capture ideas for things like setting in a story, the look of a character, or an illustration for a devotion with a few scribbled lines in our journal and a jpg or two on our camera.
3. Percolation can happen when we take time away from writing.
Mentally mulling over (percolating, incubating) ideas, including the new ones we’ve just come across, is not wasting time.
In her book Beyond the Words, Bonni Goldberg devotes 55 pages to percolation. She defines this important aspect of writing as: “… the process writers go through before actually writing. It’s a particular way of paying attention that begins the moment you’re inspired. You continue to percolate as you spend time with your inspiration and allow it to develop.”– Bonni Goldberg, Beyond the Words, p. 16.
Stephen King refers to this aspect of writing as the work of the “boys in the basement” – James Scott Bell, Write Great Fiction: Revision and Self-Editing, p. 199.
Whatever we call it, time away from writing allows ideas to develop and grow even though we’re unaware that anything is happening.
4. Reading—a popular vacation pursuit for most writers—can also nurture our writing lives.
“Reading is crucial writer’s fuel. …often what ignites our urge to write in the first place is what we read” – Golderg, Op. Cit. p. 27, 28.
5. I am far happier about getting back to work if I’ve had a break.
Somehow the annual summer vacation has been drilled into my psyche to the extent that I feel downright sorry for myself if, when September rolls around, I still haven’t had one, even if it’s a stay-at-home one. A recent podcast I listened to, where author Jeff Goins interviews creativity specialist Keith Sawyer bears this out. Sawyer’s number 4 point of 8 things that enhance creativity is “Play.”
So this summer, I’m planning to leave my writing at home while I vacation. Will you join me? Let’s spend more time with God. Let’s be present in the moment. Let’s read. Let’s relax and have fun. Our desks will still be there when we get back. So will the internet, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… The saddle will still fit. We won’t have forgotten how to ride.
Violet Nesdoly uses fiction, nonfiction, meditations, and poetry to do what she is passionate about—bringing the Bible to life. Her debut novel Destiny’s Hands, a Bible fiction, was a finalist in the 2013 Word Awards. She blogs book reviews at Violet Nesdoly.com and poetry at Violet Nesdoly / poems