Okay, so I have this bad track record of working on vacations. I thought I had reformed after a trip to New Mexico several years ago, when I literally chased a FedEx van to get a delivery from a publisher in a remote mountain village. I started traveling without my computer. I told clients well in advance that I would not be available for freelance writing and editing work on certain dates, due to previously scheduled family vacation time. (I actually had to memorize the words and practice saying them).
But putting up walls around a novel you’re revising is not so easy. Especially when you’re in the thick of it and trying to ride that narrative wave. Suddenly those carefully constructed walls start to crumble and slide like a sand castle.
I planned to turn in this phase of my novel revision on June 30. It was done, all ready to go. I thought. Then I discovered a plot glitch. A pretty gnarly tangle. When one of my editors said I could take a few extra days to finish it up, I decided to leap at the chance to fix the problem. Even though it meant I’d be looking at the manuscript while on my family vacation. Even though it meant there was a good chance my family would riot.
My family has been more than patient. I get up early and stay up late. While with them, I try very hard to stay in the moment and not let my mind drift to the Novel.
It is a strange sensation to be surrounded by people on vacation and yet not truly on vacation, since I don’t feel completely free until this problem is solved to the best of my ability. It kind of feels like being separated from revelers and beach-goers by a thin sheet of glass. I’m relaxed, working in a gorgeous setting. Yet I also feel like a radio channel is always on somewhere, connecting me to the book even when I’ve turned off the laptop and walked away.
And because I’m always working on something, or scouting for new material, I do wonder if there is always a channel left on somewhere, distant voices jabbering away. I wonder if I have ever managed to fully detach and relax on vacation. (I got the idea for the novel I’m revising now while on my honeymoon!) On some level I’m always observing, noting, collecting. I’m scribbling ideas on napkins. I seem more vulnerable to this affliction while away from home.
How do writers take a “proper” vacation? And should they?
I think writers can take vacations, and sometimes need to take vacations, but it's sometimes hard to mesh the "vacation from the project" with the properly planned vacation from the rest of life. In this case, for you, the two just didn't line up. (It's nice to have an understanding family.) It's nice if you can enjoy the work while it's flowing and not lose the momentum you've built. These are important revisions.
Good point, Pat, about two types of vacations — from a project vs. from day to day life. Lining them up is indeed the challenge!