Do Writers Have Holidays?

Or Having Some Time Off Does Not Make Me a Bad Person

I am back on the 0730 to Waterloo this morning accompanied by dreadful post-holiday blues after two glorious weeks camping and surfing with my daughters.

And whilst I had a wonderful time doing the stuff I wanted to do, enjoying the time with my girls, I struggled more with the down time. The time when the little one was off racing around the playground with new buddies she had made, and the older one was tucked up in a camping chair deep into her new book. I would also grab a chair and enjoy the sun ricocheting off the sea in Croyde Bay, just sitting and doing nothing. But it was the doing nothing bit that began to bother me.

My holiday reinforced two things. Firstly I want to be more in control of my time, I would rather not spend three hours a day commuting to and from work and I don’t want to be spending my days in an air conditioned office in central London. Writing might be my only Get Out of Jail card. And this led to the second thing, which was that I really must push on. Not dilly dally about enjoying myself. But knuckle down and write. I am not going to get anything published if I haven’t written anything (I read one piece of advice which suggests you should have a second book ‘in the hopper’ before you start touting round the first which sent me into a tail spin).

This in turn led to a third conundrum. I was loving being on holiday, enjoying the sun, the time for reflection. With every minute of the sun’s rays on my face I could feel my weary batteries topping up. I had brought pens and a notebook with me. I had brought my master notebook containing all the background and planning for Thicker Than Water. There was no excuse for not scribbling and creating whilst the girls were off doing other things.

My blog is called The Odd Half Hour because that is how I write. And when you don’t have the luxury of days and weeks spread before you to get a book written, you really have to find the discipline to cram it in. Which is why I was feeling guilty about not writing anything at all when I was on holiday. I recalled interviews I had read with successful writers talking about how they can’t possibly get through a day without writing, that once they are into a book everything else fades into the distance and something like a morning’s body boarding with their daughters would be unthinkable. Perhaps this means I am not a proper writer? Perhaps I am just not dedicated enough?

Or does it mean that I have learnt how to focus when I need to? Years of never having time to write means that when I have a scrap of time I can churn out a decent amount of good stuff. A half hour train journey will always give up a new plot point, a pithy line of dialogue. Nothing is ever wasted. And that I believe is a good and useful discipline to have.

We headed back from our holiday exhausted but happy. I packed the girls off to their dad, got up early on Sunday morning and spent the whole day head down writing. I made massive progress and thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck into it again after two weeks away from fretting and worrying about agents, getting on top of the edits, keeping up my blog,Tweeting and the countless other writing type obligations that are on my daily To Do list before I have even arrived at work.

So my conclusion is that having time off does not make me less of a writer but has allowed me to see that I am a disciplined one. And I’ll take that.

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2 thoughts on “Do Writers Have Holidays?

  1. I agree, I think it’s the years of discipline that have taught you how to compartmentalise! I am one of the other sort – I hate it when I can’t write and ignore most other things when on the home lap (ie the last few drafts) of a book. I am currently saying to my husband ‘I am going to give the place a BIG CLEAN once it’s gone to the proofreader’. However, when I go to stay with my father 3/4 times a year for a few days, I switch off from everything, including the internet. I think you need times away from it all, for sure.

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    • Thanks Terry. I guess we all work in different ways and I try to make myself get the most out of all the scraps of time I have which is why it is very frustrating when I can’t get a seat on the train!

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