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.