Aah, the joys of summer. Time at the pool, camps galore, and yup, the vacations. Whatever I might be in my professional life, I am a mom first and foremost. So, summer is a challenging time for me. Because on top of everything else I juggle, for these three months I have to put my family on the top of every schedule. Missing a trip to the pool because I am too busy writing? No, can’t happen.
The SGB household likes to take a few trips out of town every summer. Which easily takes a month out of the three. Last week we got back from a camping trip in the mountains, had a blast too. It was a whole week of fun, and seven days away from a rigorous writing schedule.
Curiously enough–while taking a week off from the day job mostly gives a commitment-free vacation time, being a writer complicates things. It’s like running my own business, every hour away eats into my productivity which in turn affects my profitability. The other issue being, its not just the week or two I’m away, but ramping up after, to the point I was before, takes time. So no matter how much I planned to get away from my daily schedule, I needed to hold on to a basic structure of a routine. I had to keep churning out a few of those pesky words and keep marketing my works to some extent while hiking up the mountain and taking macro shots of every mushroom I saw along the way.
Until this year, I struggled to handle that. But this time around, I seem to have a better grip on managing my time while on vacation. Since the plan worked so well, thought of sharing it.
The most important thing during the time leading up to your time off–plan to be away. Make sure your calendar is truly open, that there are no deadlines you’ve forgotten about and there are no book signings or TV appearances that have slipped past your memory. I wouldn’t want to waste marketing opportunities or submission deadlines because I’m recharging on the beach. Before I took off last week, I made sure my editor received a couple of things she needed to work on, the book blitz I had scheduled had all materials sent with them. Then, bon voyage!
While we’re prepping to soak up the summer sun out there somewhere, let’s spare a few minutes to make that vacation a nice little balance of work and life.
1. Make a plan, keep it simple: You cannot carry on with your entire workout routine while on vacation. Then it won’t be a vacation at all. You can, however, aim to keep a simpler version going when you are away. My current schedule includes two projects that I’m adding words to, and a few open editing commitments. I decided to pick one writing project to take with me and attend to the editing. It was simple, I didn’t have to switch my brain back and forth between stories–I simply had to keep one thread alive at the back of my mind and finish the seven outstanding edits.
2. Don’t forget your gear, but keep to the basics: It’s better not to carry too much equipment along. You’ll have plenty other things to pack anyway, like hiking gear, swimming stuff, family games etc. I usually work in parallel on a Mac and a Windows machine, and I wanted to take both with me. Glad I didn’t. I grabbed the Mac because, hey, it’s the most productive tool ever. And during crunches, it’s the one thing you can depend on. That meant I’d have to rework some formatting when I got back, but that was no big deal.
3. Once you’re out there, find a spot to write: Okay, so now you have reached your destination and settled in. The views are awesome and you can feel your creativity peaking. What do you do? Find a place where you feel it the strongest. Set up your gear in that corner and wait for the right time. Last week, my writing nook was a shady nook next to a window with glass panes reaching up to the skies. It overlooked a small clearing in the forest where deer liked to forage. Lovely, it was. Even thinking about it makes my fingers type faster.
4. Allocate a time to write without being interrupted: Just like you do it at home. Figure out the time best suited to writing, uninterrupted. It can be different from your usual writing time, be open to that. I’m a night owl, always have been. I start writing around 10 in the night and continue up to 2 in the morning. But last week, by the evening, I was exhausted by the day’s activities. By 10 PM, I was out like a light. Strangely, I found myself waking up early and by 6:30 in the morning, I would have a few hundred words written. Every day, I kept at that–my two hours of writing bliss before the household woke up.
5. Set modest goals and take joy in the progress you make: Don’t try too hard when you’re on a vacation. You’re there to wind down and relax after all. Set modest and achievable goals. You can work as long and hard as you need when you get back. The idea is to simply keep a routine going so you are not out of touch by the end of your time off. And be sure to celebrate every milestone you’ve reached while you’re out relaxing. During the week I was away, I did 1000 words every day. Along with that I completed editing of about 10,000 words. Not bad, right?
Writing is a challenging profession. Nurturing and keeping the creativity flowing demands we maintain a rhythm. It is important that we keep at it, everyday, through the weeks, months and years. But even more important is enjoying the splendor of summer with loved ones. Figuring out how to strike a good balance between them is winning half the battle, because a happy writer is a productive writer.