I just got back from vacation, which is why I haven’t posted in a while. Quite wonderful, well except for the day one of the canines decided he wasn’t getting enough attention and had to go to the vet. After a 45-minute drive and an eye-popping bill for an upset stomach, I spent the drive back to our house thinking I perhaps should’ve been a vet.
That drama aside, I used the vacation for an experiment – a mini-writer’s retreat. My goal was to see the benefit, if any, from a week of concentrated writing.
I’ll admit writing on vacation may not be possible if chaos is the norm, but with a little planning you may be pleasantly surprised.
Here are a few thoughts for orchestrating your own writing vacation.
1 – Plan accordingly. Pick a favorable location, somewhere conducive to writing. Let other’s know you’ll be writing and will need some space. Try to minimize external distractions and if there are outings, schedule accordingly.
2 – Have a goal. At the start, I was approximately 1/3 of the way through my current novel. My goal was to do a comprehensive read through and then make a stab at around 7500 words.
3 – Set aside a consistent time each day. Set aside a block of time for writing. Take some days off. I wrote Monday through Friday from 8 till noon and took off the weekends. Start and stop on time. Put a cap on the time you’ll spend and don’t do more than that each day.
4 – Don’t let the work spill over. My promise to folks was leave me alone while I write and I won’t talk about writing unless asked. After all, it was everyone’s vacation and I didn’t want to make other’s involuntary participants in my own little writer’s retreat. However, I found that people wanted to talk and I was able to use them as a sounding board for my ideas.
5 – Minimize the wired effect. I pretty much unplugged for the week. I checked my email and Twitter once a day only. This kept me from breaking my focus when I was writing.
6 – Have fun and remember the unexpected benefits. I was curious how this would work, so I decided just to have fun. I couldn’t have been more pleased. The time each day allowed for uninterrupted blocks of focused attention. I avoided frustration even if it meant some time staring out the window waiting for inspiration to wave.
The biggest benefit was the total emersion in the process. I was amazed at the nuances this allowed me to craft into my plot, how it gave me a better handle on the story. I’m not sure I would have occurred if I had been writing around my everyday schedule at home.
So what about all the people who are reading thinking, “I can’t just take a vacation and spend half of my time writing!”
Think staycation and do a long weekend. Fit 9-12 hours in over a weekend. I spent the first day reviewing my partial manuscript, if you take that out, in a weekend you’ll have a lot of time. Get up early. Stay up late when the distractions are minimized. Sure, you’ll have to plan but that’s part of the fun.
So how did it go?
My expectations were reached and beyond. In addition to the editing, the clearer view of the plot and the refinement of my story, I was able to write almost 15,000 words. More than doubling my goal and far in excess of my normal output over the same time frame when I am literally having to steal time to write.
I also learned from an accountant friend that since I had planned accordingly, kept records, and established a schedule, that I now have a bona fide deduction on my taxes. How’s that for an added benefit?
Oh and as long as you’re here, even though it isn’t in person, why not read an excerpt of The Trust or evenbuy a copy of your own. A percentage of all sales will be donated to canine related nonprofits. Support K9 rescues!
Causes sean keefer Supports
I support the Charleston Animal Society, Pet Helpers of Charleston and the Lowcountry Food Bank. See seankeefer.com for links.