Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Dog Days of Summer: Writing While on Vacation

By:  MB Partlow

First you have to acknowledge the difference between a vacation, which involves family and friends, and a writer’s retreat, which involves other writers. At the latter, nobody cares if you sit on the couch in your sweats all day, grunting  over your keyboard while mainlining coffee and Twizzlers.

The whole point of a vacation is to relax and enjoy yourself, reconnect with people, see something new, take time to sit and visit, savor a glass of wine in front of a firepit or while dangling your feet off a dock. But if you want to keep your writing momentum, here are some ideas for sneaking writing time into your next vacation.

Set realistic expectations, and communicate them to the people you’re with. Before the trip even starts. Because if you have visions of writing away in a hammock under the whispering
pines while the spouse chops wood, dispenses sunscreen and furnishes all the meal, you may end up with your hammock on fire.

It’s all about balance. You want time to interact with your friends and family. So maybe don’t expect these vacations to yield the highest-producing writing days you’ve ever had. Be realistic. Maybe this isn’t the time for hardcore, high-volume writing. Maybe you edit. Or outline. Jot notes for a short story instead of writing a chapter.

Can you write in the morning?  I’m an early riser, so I can have at least 30 minutes before anyone else stirs. That’s time enough to brew a cup of tea and get some words on the page. Maybe everyone else wants to go to the Pig Out Palace for the breakfast buffet. If you can bear to miss out on that, you could easily meet up with the gang later. Or (gasp!) set your alarm so you’re up before everyone else.

What about the doldrums in the middle of the day? Skip the lunch out, or have someone bring back take-out, and you’ve bought yourself an hour. Maybe the youngsters, hipsters, or the thoroughly hung-over want a nap in the middle of the day. Steal that time for yourself.

If you’re a night owl, catch some time at the end of the day when everyone heads off to bed. You could watch that rerun of the Golden Girls and have that second (third?) glass of wine, or turn on your imagination and let it fly free. If you need to sneak, crack a big, theatrical yawn, say you’re tired, and head off to bed early. Nobody is going to check and make sure you’re actually sleeping.

If this is a big family reunion type of vacation, you don’t have to visit every Sock Museum
and historic marker, run every sack race, or work on the family photo montage every day.  It’s not unreasonable to say you’re going to work for an hour after breakfast.

But what if you’re at one of those magical places where you spend all day having a magical time, and you and the family are shoe-horned into a single hotel room every night? And all you want to do is take your shoes off, have a drink and go to sleep? It’s harder, but it can still be done. Middle of the day is probably out, but you can snatch a half hour in the morning or evening. Not in the hotel room. Go outside and sit on a bench, or sit in the hotel lobby. Many hotels have breakfast rooms, and on the off-hours, they don’t mind if you sit in there as long as you aren’t making a mess.

Don’t underestimate the value of locking yourself in the bathroom. Whether you claim to be taking a bath or throwing a tantrum, you’ve just scored alone time! If you want to take it a step further, you can always claim diarrhea. Nobody ever questions that, and they won’t pound on the door to hurry you along.

Speaking of flexibility, there are simply some places you don’t want to lug your laptop. Re-learn to write in a notebook. Not the electronic kind. You remember paper, and the scratch of lead or smears of ink on your hand? A small notebook and pen fits in a pocket, purse, backpack full of snacks and water or a diaper bag. You could also record your brilliant thoughts on your phone, either with a note or a voice recording.

Bonus: If the people you’re with are accustomed to seeing you with a notebook and a pen, you can write down all the hilarious things that inevitably get said late at night, early in the morning, or when Aunt Rini dives into that third margarita.

About the Author: MB Partlow tries to inject her off-center sense of humor into everything she does. She writes mostly in the speculative fiction world, with forays into mystery and women’s fiction. Her first paid writing gig was for the A&E department of The Independent. She’s also written a parenting column for Pikes Peak Parent and spent years writing restaurant reviews for the Indpendent and The Gazette. She’s a longtime volunteer for PPW, having done everything from stacking chairs to Conference Director to serving on the board. She reads voraciously across genres, and thinks making up stories for a living is the greatest job in the world.