Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When Writing Takes a Vacation

Sometimes I wonder if these pauses of more than a week in posts concern the readers of The Elephant's Bookshelf. (It's probably worse for readers of Matt Sinclair's Coffee Cup, which often goes several weeks without an update.) But then again, it's still summer, and readers and writers often take vacations.

You know vacations — those all-too-short respites from the workaday jobs that pay our salaries, feed our families, and are the source (too often) of stress as well as self-definition. The problem is, I don't know them very well. As a writer and father of young children, I tend to live without too many luxuries, such as disposable money, a flush savings account, and a reliable car. I've also been a writer long enough to know that even if I'm fortunate enough to sell the novels I write, they'll likely never account for much supplemental income. But I'd like some supplement, anyway.

Which brings me to the challenge. Should you take a vacation from your writing? I don't know about you, but having failed to take any time off this summer, my brain is much more fried than any portion of my skin. So I'm wondering if the work I'm putting into the manuscript is good enough or if I'm just wasting my time.

Of course, it could be that the evil demon over my shoulder is whispering snippets of doubt and pessimism into my ear.

My inclination is to keep writing and reading it after I've done — or have my trusted readers give it another go.

What do you think? And what do you do when faced with writing while mentally fatigued?

12 comments:

Brian James said...

I find vacations recharge the idea bank. I always take some time off from writing after I've completed a project. Have to unwind one voice to allow another to crank itself up.

Caroline Hagood said...

Breaks are crucial. The question is how long do you take them for? Too short and you're not mentally rested and creatively ready, too long and you can get out of the rhythm. In terms of my day-to-day writing (blog posts and articles that I have to write), I allow myself little breaks of fun throughout the day. In terms of the whole shebang, I try to take one vacation a year for about a week where I don't have to write. The funny thing is that I usually end up writing a little--but something totally different comes out because spontaneous, I-don't-have-to-write-this writing comes from a different place inside. It can be quite stunning to see what comes out when nothing HAS to.

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks Brian, I like the idea of unwinding voices. I think you're right about that, and now I'm really pleased I decided to delay the incomplete novel instead of working on it simultaneously with the one I intend to send to agents soon. Depending on when I do that, I may even take a brief break from fiction. Brief.

Matt Sinclair said...

Caroline, you're absolutely right. I kinda forgot about those moments of unexpected brilliance. Well, perhaps it just means I haven't been brilliant lately (neither expected brilliance nor unexpected brilliance).

Jemi Fraser said...

I think we do need brain breaks from our writing. Everything is better with a break :)

We don't go away often - but we did go to a tennis tournament last week. I thoroughly enjoyed it - and didn't bring a laptop at all. It was great!

Matt Sinclair said...

Good for you, Jemi! Laptopless tennis sounds like a great way to relax.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I find vacations help. Your mind needs a rest sometimes and you can go back refreshed. I doubt if a little break will hurt.

Matt Sinclair said...

I think you're right, Terry. I'm going to not write today, tomorrow, or Sunday. That's about as much vacation as I can get these days. Hopefully, it'll refresh my muddled mind.

Jean said...

Yes, I just took a massive writing vacation and I can't begin to explain how eager I am to get back at it. I have my goals all laid out in a week-by-week plan. No distractions! Being away from it for awhile helped me realize how important it is to me. It also helped me gain focus. I know exactly which manuscript I should work on next. (I have a couple 'on the go.')

It sounds like you need to sit back and ignore writing for two weeks. It might just clarify everything for you. (It's hard to step away though--I had to take on three jobs to keep me away!!)

Matt Sinclair said...

Stepping away for that long sounds very difficult. I don't know if I could do it. It's kinda scary, actually. Maybe I should write a story about a character who's afraid to stop writing.... oh wait, that would defeat the purpose of the vacation I'm fantasizing about....

AAAARRRRGHHHHHH

layinda said...

I tend to take breaks from writing when I feel like I need them. It helps to have some incubation time, too.

Matt Sinclair said...

It seems to me that vacations are well loved. I ought to take more of them.