5 Writerly Fundamentals for a REAL Summer Vacation
Summer essentials for the compulsive in you. By Deborah Siegel Today I embark on a week of “vacation.” If you’re like me, and your work is really your passion, it is “work” to truly be on vacation. I have to work at not checking email every five minutes and work at not thinking about work. When work—and for me that means my own writing and the building of She Writes—is something you love, it takes an effort to refrain. That kind of work is not so much a duty as a compulsion. And yet every once in a while, the mind needs to decompress, and not think, and just be. Every seven years, my ole ancestors let the land lie fallow in order to maintain the crop. There’s something to be said for that. And so sayeth all the gurus of writing (and living) anyway. So here I am writing this post to hold myself accountable. Here are my five writerly essentials for a real summer vacation—five “rules” I personally seek to follow. Or, rather, I shall try. 1. Put an away message on my email. And mean it. 2. Read a stupid magazine I don’t ordinarily pick up. Favorite candidates: People or, for fewer words, Us Weekly (there! I said it! don’t think less of me). And a novel. (I usually read nonfiction that feeds my writing, which is nonfiction, so fiction, for me, is vacation. Got suggestions? I’m all ears!) 3. Carve out some big blocks of unstructured time. 4. Go on outings without my computer. (This should be an easy one next week, as my battery is currently, dangerously yikes, on the fritz.) 5. Spend ample time staring at large body of water. In my case, since I’m headed to the Chicago area, this means Lake Michigan. Of course, I also plan to pack a notebook (just a wee smallish one), in case I fail miserably at steps 1-5 and need to write all the work-related stuff down. And you, She Writers? What are the essential behaviors or items that signal VACATION to you? Tell me, tell me! In comments.

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  • Deborah Siegel Writing

    Well, I'm back. And I had a delicious (mostly!) vacation. Loved sharing the twins with their grandparents and letting my mind unwind. And I loved reading your lists of vacation essentials -- why is it that even just READING such lists makes me feel vacationy? So now I'm struggling, of course, with return-from-vacation blues. Only light blues though. Feeling a ton of gratitude to my colleagues here for giving me space to take a little time out.

    I loved this line Maddie -- "When you truly do love your work, sometimes true vacationing is getting to do it in a different location!"

    And in fact, I did: I had a great focus-group-like conversation with a number of She Writers in the Chicago area. She Writes Chicago, and all sorts of She Writes Locals, here we come!

  • Diana North

    Vacations, for me, mean not too many clothes, way too many books, lots of sunshine and a nearby beach. For fun, I want places to walk, ride my bike, and think. And of course, good but simple food to eat. Oh, and an empty in-box is nice too.

  • Chelsea Starling

    Vacation? What's that? If only someone would dump me on a beach in Tahiti, I could easily live without all but food, drink and perhaps clothing.

  • I just spent 5 days without my laptop and have been in a foul mood, no doubt because it was a ridiculously mean-spirited and useless virus that attacked my computer (I was ready to buy another one with money I don't have) coupled with the fact that I am ill and achey with Lyme Disease. My brilliant 20-year-old nephew somehow fixed the laptop. I would lay down my life for this boy, even more so now.

    HOWEVER! Last week I spent 4 days in Maine, also without my laptop, but catching up with an old friend I haven't seen in too long, and I didn't even flinch to be without Facebook, my favorite blogs and e-mail...and yes, She Writes. I truly didn't think I had it in me, and it would be more work than it was, but I was pleasantly surprised at my rare, rare propensity for relaxation. I didn't even bring a notebook -- my friend would have paper if inspiration came, I figured -- but I did absorb everything with an intent to probably use it all one day...the trailer park, the blind dog who walks in circles, the two old "ay-uh" ladies in the second-hand shop, the misty mountains overlooking Bar Harbor. My four days flew by too fast, but this week has been an eternity.

    So I can relax away from home, but not here. At least not without a little work.

    By the way, in Maine I bought and read "Us Weekly."

  • Maddie Dawson

    I sympathize! When you truly do love your work, sometimes true vacationing is getting to do it in a different location! For years I found our days at the Cape the time when my novel spoke to me most loudly and clearly. "Go away," I'd tell it, but it was determined. I hope you do get a good rest...and that your parents are just smitten with those sweet twins, and that you get to do whatever it is that you most want to do!

  • Loraine Despres

    I'm going to be totally self-serving, but if you pick up THE SCANDALOUS SUMMER OF SISSY LEBLANC bet you won't be able to put it down. Great airplane and vacation read. I've just finished THE IMPERFECTIONISTS, a novel by Tom Rachman--linked stories--which I loved. Have a great time in Chicago. The Art Institute is amazing.

  • THANK YOU, everyone - truly wise suggestions, each and every one. And I'm off to the airport now....whohoo!

  • Sean McAfee

    I returned from the Outer Banks last week, and leaving my computer at home was a great idea. Yes, I took a notebook, and jotted down a few notes for current chapters when they came up. But the army made sure I could type 90 wpm, and ever since then I eschew ink--on-paper for pixels-on-screen. So actually writing was difficult enough that I managed to spend more time with family.
    I also use my phone to send text message memos to my email when ideas occur, then check them later. I find it helps to keep me from following up on them and "disappearing from view", at least until I get back to my desk. Occasionally I forget what I wanted to do with them, and that drives me crazy. But that's a price I am willing to pay to avoid being who I used to be - a man who friends said worked on his writing every waking hour.

  • Fun is the word!

    The Wednesday Sisters sounds like a good read. The Shell Seekers has been around for a while but it is a great story. If you don't have long lengths of time, The Little Prince is a gem for a first-read or 2nd.

    As for the notebook, sure, take one with you but don't forget to pack your markers for sketches and doodles!!!!!!!
    After my children were born, color seemed to be awakened in my work. You never know where creativity will lead you!
    Have a relaxing, color-filled vacation!


  • Doreen McGettigan

    I had a really hard time with the no computer thing I promised my family. I took with me a spiral notebook and some fun pens..just in case an idea should pop up..mostly the kids drew pictures in my notebook and now when I feel stressed I just close my eyes and remember that water, the waves and the fun family time I had. Yes relax have some fun!

  • Ah....FUN. Yes, FUN! Numero uno: FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN!

  • Julie Jeffs

    You forgot one of the most important rules ... have fun!!!! And I think Meg Waite Clayton's the Wednesday Sisters is a wonderful vacation read!