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Wednesday, June 04, 2014


A Writer's Working Vacation

So now it’s June and all you really want is a nice, long vacation.

Dang it, you’ve worked hard at your writing career, right? You’ve pushed through a 60,000 word manuscript, or sent out a ton of submissions—or both. You’ve blogged religiously and updated statuses and tweeted your fingers off. You’ve read till your eyes are crossed, and taken enough notes at conferences to fill four three-ring binders.

You deserve a break.

Except it’s not a good idea. You need to keep working.

And you need to put down that laptop you want to throw at me.

I promise you that I get it. I want a vacation, too. The thing is, I know how hard it is to get back to work when I take off, how much writing ground is lost when I get out of my writing routine. And so I take a working vacation (which sounds weird, even as I write it). But it works for me, and it can work for you. Here’s how:

1. If you’re working on a manuscript, it’s really important to keep at it. You can’t afford the time it takes to constantly reacquaint yourself with the story. So even if it’s just thirty minutes, work on your manuscript every day. Even if you’re on a cruise, you can find thirty minutes. (But don’t be surprised if, once you start working, you find another hour or two. Or that your manuscript is mysteriously margarita-stained and smells like sunscreen.)

2. If you’re in between projects, you might think you have a perfectly legitimate excuse for a break. But your creative juices will dry up if you don’t keep them flowing, so choose a couple of fun summertime projects and work on one every day. Contests, writing challenges, or opportune …er, opportunities pop up like summer showers. I plan to watch this free Scrivener webinar because I missed it the first time around. Now I can watch it whenever I want, but please note that it’s only available till this Friday, 11:59 PM EST. (I especially like to use travel time for creative thinking and plotting and such. The casual kiddie observer might accuse you of sleeping, but you will know that you are hard at work.)

3. It might be too late to sign up for a summer writer’s conference, but research now and you’ll be ready for next year. In the meantime, schedule a writer’s retreat with friends. Plan for a long weekend at the beach or mountains or a state park. The plus side of a retreat is how relaxing it can be while getting work accomplished. (And if that retreat involves a spa package and dinners out on the town, then you can pat yourself on the back and go guilt-free because you’ve put in your writing hours. Or at least your writing thirty minutes.)

4. Sometimes, you will find yourself without Internet access, stuck in the middle of, say, a family reunion. Preparedness is the key to getting your work done. Have plenty of paper and pencils on hand. Print out needed materials. Insist on a long time-out, perhaps at a coffee joint to use the wi-fi. (You might also find yourself labeled as that “rude writer in the family who always claims she's working.” But that, my friends, is the price you pay as a professional writer.)

A working vacation…sounds a little crazy, and even a little funny. But it’s June, you know, and it’s the best idea I’ve got.

~Cathy C. Hall

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Blogger Sioux said...

I often have to fall back on a composition book and a pen--during a boring meeting, for example. I LOOK like I'm taking notes, but really, I'm working on a WIP. And luckily, my handwriting is relatively illegible when I'm writing just for myself, so no one knows what I'm truly doing.

A manuscript that's margarita and sunscreen-stained? Hilarious.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

Cathy, YOU ARE RIGHT! We can not afford to take an entire summer off, but. . . our children must also understand this. Can you please right a blog post for them? Sincerely, Margo L. Dill

7:57 AM  
Blogger Cathy C. Hall said...

Sioux, I love your method! (And must admit that when I'm stuck in a conference session that bores me, I work on other stuff, too. And possibly pass notes to the people sitting beside me.) :-)

Margo, that's why God created napping. Um...not for the kidders. For you. :-)

8:06 AM  
Blogger Savannah Rose said...

I find when I'm on vacation, I feel more creative. Great tips. Thank you.

9:03 AM  
Blogger BECKY said...

What we need to figure out is how to have a writers' retreat with all of us! I tried to put one together a few years ago with four or five writer-friends. I looked into condos at Lake of the Ozarks, which is near to us St. Louis gals, and found some nice places that were really reasonable when the rent was shared.....but it didn't come together.... :(

11:42 AM  
Blogger Debra Mayhew said...

Okay, I was going to give myself permission to take a break when we're visiting family next week...but you've convinced me to take a pen and paper instead. Cathy saves the day again!

12:22 PM  
OpenID said...

Do you always have to be right? Doesn't it ever get old? I chucked my WIP for a nearly a week while I worked on something else, and boy was it a mistake. The next time I sat down to focus on it (the WIP) I had to give almost a whole hour just to put myself back where I needed to be to start writing again. It's not worth the break---and, if I'm honest, I'm happier without the break. Even if all I do is spend 20 minutes editing yesterday's work, it keeps me in the loop.

12:32 PM  
Blogger MP said...

I agree, momentum is everything. It can to be too hard to get restarted after a big break. Thanks for the reminder.
P.S. Hey, I spy Cathy on a Stick (!

1:43 PM  
Blogger Gail said...

Cath- You are right about working vacations, or semi-vacations, or non-vacations but you have to go out of town for family stuff! I had a May 31st deadline to send in a manuscript to a critiquer for a July writing retreat. Had my research done, but no PB manny. Stuck all the research on a thumb drive and pen/paper for the visiting time at the PT rehab for my mom. Proud to say that in the 2 weeks away, I wrote the 1st draft, sent to my writers' group for critiques, revised, sent it again to one person, revised and sent it on it's way, a day before the deadline. Not that productive at home! Nothihng like a deadline to keep you moving!

1:43 PM  
Blogger Renee Roberson said...

Cathy, as much as I do want to throw my laptop at you, you are correct! Luckily for me deadlines are going to save the day once again. I am signing up for the September SCBWI conference in my area and plan on getting my MG and YA critiqued. I'll need to get my pages ready by mid-July to meet that critique deadline, which should give me a shove in the right direction!

5:47 PM  
Blogger Cathy C. Hall said...

Becky, if at first you don't succeed, try at least one more time! :-)

Deb, I'm glad I convinced you not to take that break. But if you read Lisa's lovely comment, you'll notice I have support from the peanut gallery. :-)

Gail, yes! Sometimes having work to do is a good distraction amidst family doings. Enjoy your July retreat!

Renee, I'm a firm believer that deadlines are your friends. ;-) Cathy-on-a-Stick, on the other hand...MP, she keeps popping up here! (That's what I get for putting her on a POPsicle stick.)

Ohhhh, that was bad. :-)

6:37 AM  
Blogger Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh, Savannah Rose, I find that true as well! And P.S. That name has "author" written all over it. :-)

9:25 AM  

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