I’ve just come back from a few days away from Missouri.  The children were not with me over Thanksgiving this year, and of course my family all live thousands of miles away, so there didn’t seem to be much point hanging around. Turkey for one, sir?

So I took off, for a quick visit to Philadelphia – somewhere I’d never been before.  I had a wonderful time, loved exploring the city, and ate magnificently throughout.  (Top tip: if you want to eat really well, dine with a food and travel writer.  Or even better, with two.  They know all the best places and are always treated like royalty.  Thank you, Kayt!)

Prior to leaving I asked twitter whether or not I should take my laptop with me.  The answer was a unanimous no.  So, taking a deep breath, I left it behind.

And I am very glad that I did.

Without my laptop sitting in quiet accusation on the desk of my hotel room, I was able to relax and enjoy myself.   Rather than pecking desultorily at the keyboard, then, the time I spent in my hotel room was a guilt-free blast.  I raided the mini-bar, read a couple of books, and watched a boatload of rubbish television.  I hardly thought about my novel-in-progress at all.  Emails were read (I did have my phone) but every single one of them went unanswered.  (None was especially urgent.)  And it was all rather blissful.

Just like everyone else, writers need downtime, periods away from the pressure of work.  But it’s harder to achieve for us, because it’s a different kind of a job that we do: there are no defined hours, no paid vacation days (and no health insurance, but don’t get me started on that.)  It’s more difficult to leave my writing behind me than it is for my legal work.  Of course, I’m only speaking for myself, but there is an irritating little voice in the back of my head which is eternally whispering: “You know, you could always go and write some more.”  Sometimes the only way to shut it up it is to adopt draconian methods, e.g. leaving the damn computer behind.

While I was discussing this whole idea on twitter the night before my departure for Philly, Rebecca of The Book Lady’s Blog told me about an annual tradition of hers: Fall Back Weekend.  It’s a simple idea.  The weekend in autumn that the clocks go back, you go off-grid for the entire weekend.  No email, no internet, no telephone, no television, nothing.  Nary a single tweet.  (If you can get through the entire weekend without getting out of your pajamas, you get bonus points.)  I think it all sounds rather wonderful.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait a year before I try it.

Anyway – here I am, back at my desk, feeling refreshed and ready to leap back into the creative fray.  Do you have any tricks you use to recharge your batteries or get yourself out of a rut if you feel things are getting stale?

Comments 4

  1. I just returned to checking Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ after a 101-day social media break. Disconnecting from it all really worked for me. After four days back, I’m already considering another break, or muting much of the noise so only what makes me happier or a better writer comes through.

    The times I’ve been busy doing other things or in a situation like yours, where I have limited access to things and can just sit, read, think, and explore, have always been the best breaks. Camping is always nice, although I now have a phone that allows access to things in most of the places I go.

    Sometimes it’s just curling up on the couch with a book for a couple hours. While I’ve started reading a lot more ebooks these past couple years, there’s something strangely powerful to me about saying, “I live a relaxed enough life that I can be content losing myself for hours in a book, disconnected from everything except what’s going on in my head as a result of the efforts of a writer working hard at something they love.”

    Aside from a day hike or juggling for hours, I can think of no better quick recharge than reading.

  2. Yes! Another writer/Twitter pal who dared to unplug and survived! For me, Alex, the hardest part was putting away my WIP for the holiday–since I don’t have one of those sassy do-it-all phones, I never worry that I’ll be tempted by the internet if I’m without my computer, but the thought of leaving a manuscript when I’m in the throes of that early love is downright distracting. But that said, it was a wonderful break–ideas flowed in between meals and walks along the beach–and now I can see we’re all back, ready to dig back in.

  3. I was just thinking about this over Thanksgiving — I’ve at times disconnected from the Internet and social networking. But it is much harder to disconnect from our “work” — the actual writing part. I am happy to know that you were able to do this; it gives me hope. Often even if I’m not working on it, my WIP is in the not-so-back of my mind. Sounds like a wonderful break!

  4. I’ve just finished my first novel after two pretty intense years during which the longest break from the manuscript was 3 weeks, and quite a few 1 and 2 week breaks. I agree on how hard it is to step back when you’re really ‘in’ it, but every single time I’ve done that, it’s had a beneficial effect on my writing although I never really stop thinking about the WIP. I live in London but the book is partly set in Brooklyn, and every time I set foot in the USA (any part at all), things really take off creatively! Even my critique group members noticed. That’s quite an excuse to travel, don’t you think ?!

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