Where to go on a writer vacation
The first part of this post series, Your Muse Demands a Vacation, described writer burnout and how to know if you are in danger of falling victim to this devastating condition. You are losing interest in your writing. You are struggling with writer's block when you usually have no problems. You are starting to think about whether all of this is worth it. Should you quit?
No! You should go on a vacation and not just any vacation. Take a writer vacation. Here are some ideas on how you can take a break from your writing and not feel guilty, but build up the energy for sitting at your desk with new enthusiasm when you return!
What is a writer vacation?
A writer vacation is a vacation that exposes a write to experiences that may enhance their future writing. Writing is hard work. Many writers, myself included, tend to sit down and concentrate hard during the actual creation process and the revision stage.
Overcoming your fears about taking a writer vacation
1. I have kids. I don't have time or money for a separate writer vacation
If you are married, whether you have kids or not, you have to consider other people's interests when you decide to go on a vacation. For many people, finances dictate that you can't take a family vacation and a separate writer vacation and there is no need to do so.
My mother was an elementary school teacher and an expert at designing vacations that met her research needs and our needs as a family. From her, I learned that every family vacation teaches you something you didn't know before. Kids love hands-on learning and getting them into museums and exploring new environments gets them off the internet for at least a few hours.
Here are some ways you can keep the family happy and take a break yourself that will benefit your writing:
- A typical writer vacation is the road trip. You can go on an extended trip across the country, or a series of long weekends. A few three or four-day weekends in a row will give you time to relax and free your creative mind to wander. Keep in mind though experts tell us it takes two weeks to shrug off the stress of your daily life. Your kids and spouse need a break too. Learn a new skill that the protagonist in your new book will need. Go explore an unusual museum (there are tons. Did you know there is a museum in Maine dedicated to Cryptozoology?
- If money is a real issue, and every writer has some point in their career when it is, then go on day trips and do a Staycation, when you go on day trips. Travel to a nearby historical location. Involve the kids by reading children's books about that historical period to them. Are you a mystery writer? Explore a local mystery. Go to cemeteries and read the gravestones. There are stories in every graveyard. If your children are older hike a trail and take a bird book or wildflower book with you. Every new bit of expertise you add to the knowledge base in your head your creative mind will use to deepen your descriptions in future stories.
- Save up for a few years for a trip abroad. Pick a location different from where you live. Children benefit greatly from being exposed to new cultures. You don't have to spend a fortune either. You can travel to a bordering country if an overseas trip is out of the question.
- Church trips, volunteering as a chaperone for a school trip or a sports team tour or music group tour can also reduce your stress while giving you the chance to make new friends from the group, gain insight into your child's life and provide you with authentic characters and speech patterns for your next story.
TIP for vacationing with kids or even on your own! Check out the app, Vowch. It is an educational app that combines Facebook and Yelp functions to “vouch” for different activities and then rates them. By the way, one of the best tips I got when writing Science Fiction is to use Children's books for science information. A few well placed details can give your story authenticity. You don't want to overload your reader with facts. This approach works well for historical fiction too.
2. I am on a fixed income and live alone. I don't like to travel.
Look into Voluntourism. There are dozens of opportunities for people to help out and you don't have to travel to lend a hand and meet new people outside your social group. If you do have the money for a vacation, you can also go abroad and stretch yourself. Sound intriguing? Check out Voluntourism.org.
3. Preparing for your writer vacation
Whether you plan to stay around home and take day trips, take long weekend trips or travel for a few weeks, preparation is key to getting experiences that will enhance your time away from your writing desk. Here are some the trip planning to ensure that your vacation is a valuable writer vacation.
- Think about settings you might use in a future story. Look for exciting things you might do once you go to that setting. When you get there though, be open for the unexpected. Part of the reason for going on a trip is to discover what you don't know!
- After researching what you might do on your writer vacation create an itinerary of things to do when you arrive. I like to have a “good weather” and “bad weather” alternatives for each day. Tackle your must-do activity on the day after you arrive. That way, if the weather or circumstances keep you from your planned event, you can reschedule before you leave. Don't hesitate when you reach your destination to ask locals for ideas and use these to modify your plans. The guidebooks don't always know best!
- Going abroad? Learn a few words of the language spoken where you will be. Duolingo is an excellent resource as is the ios app, Speak & Translate. (Don't have an iPhone? Check out this page for alternatives that work on other devices: 15 Powerful Translation Apps and Devices for Travelers in 2018.