You deserve a vacation

Vacations are important. They help a person unplug, de-stress, and rekindle their love for their profession. And lets face it, even a person who loves their job can’t love it 100% of the time.

For some reason, I’ve been really terrible at grasping this concept when it comes to writing. When my “day job” still labeled me a web designer, writing was my escape. It was my treat to myself at the end of the day, what I longed to do on the weekends.

Now, writing is what I do every day. I am my own boss. I make my own schedules and set many of my own deadlines. I tell myself to sit down and be productive. I love this. I love the YA community and chatting on twitter and maintaining my blog and reading and revising and, above all, writing. But loving writing means I also love working. I love it so much that I’ve sort of forgotten how to not be working. I’ll write clear through evenings, weekends, national holidays. I don’t typically plan vacation days because I don’t earn them based on the days I work. Nor do I “lose” them if I don’t “use” them.

This is bad, guys. Bad, bad, bad.

By being my own boss—a boss focused on results—I too often confuse I’m exhausted and burnt out with Something must be wrong with me because I don’t feel like doing what I’m supposed to love more than anything in the world. That guilt then makes my Inner Boss further obsessed with the idea of productivity and I find myself trying to power through the burnout by writing more instead of taking a much needed break.

I just got back from a retreat with some fellow Pub Crawl gals—Sarah, Sooz, and Amie! (Meagan Spooner, Amie’s co-author, also joined in the fun.) We spent a relaxing week at a lake house in the Smoky Mountains. We went on hikes and swam in lakes and talked books. We watched movies and then dissected the storytelling techniques used. We went to the Biltmore Estate and daydreamed about novels set in historic mansions with secret passageways.

And then something funny happened.

The morning before we left, I stumbled into the kitchen for coffee only to be struck by an overwhelming urge to write. And not the I-should-sit-down-and-work-on-my-WIP-so-I-meet-my-personal-deadline-and-please-my-Inner-Boss sort of urge. No, I wanted to write just to write. I wanted to do it for ME. This was a Nothing-is-more-important-than-curling-up-with-my-laptop-and-spilling-words-and-living-in-my-imagination-for-the-next-few-hours sort of urge.

I suddenly realized I hadn’t felt that way in weeks! The vacation had recharged my batteries–both the creative ones, and the mental ones–and it had come at exactly the right time even though we’d planned the retreat months in advance. I didn’t need the vacation when I originally booked my travel. In fact, I’d just come back from a trip with my husband and wasn’t planning to take off any more time until the holidays. The thought of taking another vacation and abandoning my writing made me feel selfish and lazy. But with some nudging from the girls, I bought a plane ticket and by the time the retreat rolled around four months later, I needed the time off. Desperately.

I guess all I’m trying to say this: It’s inevitable that you’ll need a break and that the need will come earlier than you anticipate. Writing is, after all, a mentally draining outlet.

Your creative well is not bottomless. Your enthusiasm has limits. And your motivation and love of writing is far from an infinite resource.

None of these truths should make you feel like a lesser writer, unworthy of some time off. They should only help prove how important it is to take a break, how a short reprieve from writing may be the very thing that helps your love of it resurface.

So please, please, please plan vacations for yourself every few months. You absolutely deserve them.


18 Responses to You deserve a vacation

  1. Yahong Sep 11 2012 at 9:06 am #

    Your retreat sounds beautifully ideal! I fully agree with what you’re saying. There are some times when you have to crack the whip, but other times when you have to recognize that you shouldn’t push yourself. Your situation is a little different though, I think, since you write full-time. It’s pretty easy to slack and take a break–or two or ten–when you don’t have deadlines. (At least, it is for me. :P)

    • Erin Bowman Sep 11 2012 at 8:11 pm #

      You are so right, Yahong! Being able to recognize the difference between avoiding work from procrastination/fear/etc and avoiding work from burnout is key!

  2. Sarah Sep 11 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I’m so glad to hear the retreat was refreshing! I totally agree that time off is necessary. But it can be SO hard to be the one to say, “I need a break.” Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • Erin Bowman Sep 11 2012 at 8:13 pm #

      It was soooo refreshing. I needed it more than I even knew 😉

  3. Hannah Sep 11 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    I’ve had two vacations within the last month and they were EXACTLY what I needed. I was getting so stressed out by my book and my approaching deadline that I just needed a few days of no internet access and completely not thinking about the project in order to come back and reassess the project priorities and regroup for an organized attack of how to approach it and get done. I already know I’m going to need another vacation IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING this book’s deadline…Can’t wait to have a recharge and get excited for the next book.

    • Erin Bowman Sep 11 2012 at 8:13 pm #

      Amazing what a “no internet” vacation can do for one’s sanity and state-of-mind, huh?

  4. Sarah G. Sep 11 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    You’re so right, Erin! (And that writerly retreat sounds absolutely lovely!)

    I’m not a writer, at least not a novelist, but as a graduate student, my work is similarly reading and writing based and my schedule similarly flexible and deadline-oriented. I entirely agree: it can be so hard to set limits, to say, “I’m going to work from X time to Y time, and then rest,” when there is *always* more to do. I am trying to learn to be better at setting reasonable and regular work hours, both to maximize productivity during those hours and to feel like I am truly resting, and deserved to be, during my hours off. And your advice is so important, because it’s so easy to forget — true vacations really are worth it.

    • Erin Bowman Sep 11 2012 at 8:16 pm #

      Truly, anyone working for them-selves (which would include grad students as you pointed out!) can suffer from this, I think. Because as we’re all aware, there is “always” more to do, and since we (often) work from the comfort of our homes, we’re never NOT at work. Stepping away becomes far more difficult than it should be. I hope you treat yourself to a vacation soon 🙂

  5. Eva Rieder Sep 11 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    You are right on, Erin! Too often we get so into the love of our writing work that we forget we have to breathe. Life still has to happen, and the writing has to happen, but sometimes a vacation is mandatory. I’m trying to remind myself of this right now, as I have started a new position at work, am keeping up on my writing, and am also about to move. Eek! An occasional day off or vacation is essential, and taking that moderated break is a great way to rejuvenate and refresh your thoughts. Thanks for sharing a post on a necessary topic!

    • Erin Bowman Sep 11 2012 at 8:18 pm #

      Vacation is totally mandatory! If I don’t think of it that way, I truly will not end up taking one. I’m always thinking, “Why do I want to spend all that money when I could just stay here and write?” But a break really does do wonders for one’s creativity/motivation/sanity/stress levels/etc. I hope you get your own vacation in soon! 🙂

  6. jodimeadows Sep 11 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    It’s really kind of scary how much I need reminders like this. I will work myself into a neurotic, eye-twitching nut if someone doesn’t stop me. Which . . . is not a good way to exist.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • Erin Bowman Sep 11 2012 at 8:19 pm #

      Doing what you love for a living is a blessing and a curse. We never want to be away from it, but gosh, do we TRULY need those breaks, huh?

  7. Krispy Sep 11 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    I’m a massive fan of taking breaks, so I heartily agree with this. I love vacations, but leading up to them, I always feel guilty about it because I think about all the things I think I should be doing or about the money being spent. But like you said, breaks are so necessary for recharging, and they can be massively inspirational as well. Life must be lived! 🙂

    • Erin Bowman Sep 11 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      I am totally guilty about thinking about the money, too! Or how much other stuff I could be getting done if I wasn’t off pampering myself. I truly have to remind myself, again and again, that I deserve the vacation. I work my butt off, so I don’t know why I always feel so unworthy…

  8. Corrine Jackson Sep 11 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    I have a retreat planned for later this month and I can’t wait. The last three years have been a whirlwind, and I steadily work long hours. If I’m not at my day job, then my time is consumed by writing or marketing. I haven’t figured out how to unplug, though. I still take my iphone and tweet or FB. I need to figure out how to really disconnect entirely from time to time.

    • Erin Bowman Sep 11 2012 at 9:20 pm #

      I suggest going somewhere without internet and cell service…like a cabin in the mountains! Or at the very least, putting your phone on airplane mode.

      I was without internet for nearly the whole week of the retreat, and it was SO REFRESHING to be truly unplugged for the first time in ages!

  9. Alexa (Loves Books) Sep 12 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more! Sometimes, it’s great to NOT write anything at all and just take a break, go on vacation. It allows your brain to rest a little before you suddenly miss it and – surprise! You’re back in the groove.

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