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?