Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How Do Writers Spend Their Vacations?

In the opening of a recent newsletter, I shared that I catch up on some of my personal writing activities when I take vacations. Then, I asked subscribers to share how they handle writing vacations. The response was overwhelming, so I'm just sharing some of my favorites below. (By the way, the newsletter is free and comes out every Friday--just go to the home page to sign up.)

Laura Stone: When I go on vacation, I want to get as far away from my normal life as I possibly can. The other side of the planet works best. Whether it's in China or Fiji, I drop myself into a new world and experience a different reality for a while. I make time for relaxation, creativity, and reading (on the plane). This summer, for example, I went on a mission trip to Cuba. Making the world a slightly better place feels good too. Next year, I'll be heading for Antarctica (my last continent). India and Kenya are still left on my list, but I know I'll be checking them off soon. I love to experience different cultures; it helps me think outside the box.

K. Dawn Byrd: I vacation two times per year at Myrtle Beach, SC. I spend my vacation writing or editing on a balcony overlooking the ocean as the waves crash in. If things just aren't clicking, I'll take a stroll along the beach and think about my WIP as I walk. This always seems to get the writer juices flowing again. I can't think of a better vacation!

Julia Kauder: The end of May found me fretting over my final chapter. Wrap it up or delve deeper to the end? So I decided to read this summer. I've been reading my genre and, with each book, I couldn't WAIT to get to the final chapter to see how my favorite writers have done it. I'm thrilled to say this has been a productive exercise as, yesterday, I finished my final chapter and spent the evening feeling quite pleased with myself! So, I've read this summer and am now off to the library again to change books.

Cindy Sample: Mystery writers never stop asking the question "what if?" So while lunching at a large resort on the big island of Hawaii last winter, watching all of the exotic drinks pass by, I finally figured out how I'm going to poison the victim in my sequel, Dying for a Daiquiri. I was so elated I shared my plot idea with the server. She obviously wasn't as enthralled with my subject matter, because I never saw her again.

Shiketa Morgan: Recently, I took a trip to Branson, and I was able to unplug for one day. As I explored silver dollar city, I was getting blog post ideas. It seems to be difficult to turn the writer in me off.

Colette Disford: My husband loves to drive and rarely let me take the wheel, including on overlong road trips. While I admittedly do find operating a vehicle rather dull, sitting shotgun is like taking an Uzi to my muse. So I scan the passing scenery for ideas and shoot them into the spiral notebook I always keep holstered at my hip (in my purse). This really is the bomb for me, because before I can even take proper aim, my creativity opens fire with new ideas for poems. Upon returning home, I have a whole arsenal of new poetry to bang out on the keyboard. A driving force, indeed!

Tom Prigg: I use my vacations as my material for writing. I may go climb a mountain, visit another culture simply to hang out or just experience something different. For instance, I just got an article accepted for a trip to Newfoundland in the town L'anse aux Meadows, Leif Erickson's viking settlement, to climb icebergs. My only writing was to keep track of events, thoughts and feelings. The real writing for me was on my return.

Jack Trammell: I write about the Civil War. Even though it was an American war, it was an event with many global consequences. Therefore, wherever I vacation, there is some local connection to Civil War events, even if it is in another country. I don't choose my vacation spots based on the Civil War; but while I'm there, I always challenge myself to do a little research and make the local connection. Usually an article, or essay, or project is the fruit. The cumulative efforts from my travels will eventually be a book.

Ann Byle: As a busy freelance writer who writes often about books and authors, as well as book reviews for several publications, I find my reading time spent on books I must read. But vacation means I read books I want to read. A good novel feels decadent, a well-written piece of nonfiction is luscious. I plan for weeks what books and magazines I'll spend my vacation reading. Recent vacation reads: The Help, by Kathryn Stockett; Outwitting History, by Aaron Lansky. Felt like I was lolling in a bubble-filled hot bath. Upcoming vacation reads: Writer's Digest; Making a Living as a Freelance Writer, by Jenna Glatzer; nonfiction by Donald Hall, purchased in a quirky used bookstore in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, something trashy as yet undiscovered. I'm grinning with joy at the thought.

Sean O'Mordha: I probably work harder, physically, on vacation than any other time, even on a cruise. I don't usually write, but I am researching and continually on the lookout for ideas, either for a new story, or elements to use. On a cruise, I will flip through a novel or two during "time at sea," but usually just watch people, characteristics, how they behave and interact. On shore, I focus on people, the place and its history. I have a novel set in the mountains around Los Alamos, NM. In June, my youngest son (a photojournalist) and I spent some time there getting more geographical backdrop information, and more on the indigenous people. This was not my first trip. I was there last year and had a lot of questions to answer. I re-visited the area three weeks later to see how much of my setting had been destroyed by fire--a lot--which will be written into a future story. On the way back through Las Vegas to my summer work home in California, I stopped to visit friends--and do some ground research for another series. Next month, I will be with family at a Lake Tahoe cabin. Of course, I will be working. Vacations are an opportunity to expand one's knowledge. Vegetating is what dead people do.


As I said, a lot of great advice from other writers, and that last sentence by Sean O'Mordha should be a bumper sticker (if it isn't already one): Vegetating is what dead people do.

So the lesson here? Sure, have a great time on vacation, but don't use it as an excuse to imitate the dead.


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The top books on my vacation reading list? They are:
  • Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales From an Allergic Life, by Sandra Beasley. Beasley is one of my favorite writers, but I've always been curious about how she's coped with having to watch everything she eats as if her next bite might be her last.
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. I've loved every Steinbeck story I've ever read, and I was enjoying this novel when some kind of life or work (or both) tragedy struck--can't even remember what now. Anyway, I've always wanted to start over on this novel since.
  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. My favorite book. Hands down. I can never get enough of reading it.
  • Words for Empty and Words for Full, by Bob Hicok. I've long been a fan of Hicok, so it's a little surprising--especially to me--that I still haven't read this collection.


MC said...

I like Ms. Byrd's method, sounds very relaxing. Of course, they all sound appealing as a writer. This was an interesting post, thanks for sharing.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Well said. After I finished reading everyone's thoughts, I was ready to pack up the family and hit a beach too!

I've found I really like old coastal towns such as Savannah and Charleston. Myrtle Beach isn't too bad either, though it's a little heavy on the air brush T-shirts and miniature golf. However, the beach is the beach.

C. McKane said...

Great list, I really enjoyed Cindy Sample's experience. I went to SC for the first time this summer and read some shorts but spent more time talking plots with my 16 year old sister.

K. Dawn Byrd said...

Myrtle Beach is my favorite place along the coast because I've been traveling there for years, know where everything is, where I like to eat, etc. One of my supervisors used to called it "Redneck Rodeo," but whatever it is, I really like it. It's a great place to relax, has wonderful golf courses, and good food. I'm headed there again and October and can't wait! Thanks for posting my comments on your blog, Bob!

Anonymous said...

This really made me ;D ! Thank you, Robert.
I wish I could afford the destinations mentioned by the other writers, but any road will do the trick for me...
Thanks again!
Colette Disford