Everybody needs a vacation. For some, vacations give us an opportunity to take a deeper dive into our creative interests. We can go to a writer’s conference, or an arts colony, or go to a city where we can visit ten art museums in ten days, or find someplace off season on the beach where we can write or paint or take photographs undisturbed. Or perhaps we seize the opportunity for a class to learn an approach or a form we’ve never mastered. There are hundreds of places that cater to people on vacation who want to learn water colors, or listen to jazz, or take up jewelry making.
What many of us never do is take an actual vacation. The kind where you do no work of any kind whatsoever, but actually go to the beach IN season and drink frozen margaritas. Or go to Disney World without having in the back of your mind what a good setting it would make for a horror movie. Or go kayaking, or mountain climbing, or to a spa for a different kind of seaweed wrap every day. There’s little enough time in our lives for our creative projects, we tell ourselves—why waste perfectly good time off on unproductive activities?
That was how I felt for many years. You couldn’t sell me on a vacation. Time off was for writing, or possibly going places that would help my writing. Writing WAS my vacation.
But funny thing about that: I never found myself getting so much done on these writing vacations. Some people do, I know. They go off to writers colonies and actually write. They hole themselves up in a studio shack on a lonely beach and come back with piles of photographs or paintings. Me, I mostly get anxious. I tell myself I only have a week, it’s already Tuesday, and what have I accomplished? And then suddenly it’s Saturday, and I’m scribbling desperately—and I come out of the whole thing with a sense of having achieved very little. (This by the way, bears absolutely no relationship to how much I have written, whether it be five or fifty pages—it’s not enough.)
Last year, I took an actual vacation. I went with my sister to visit my brother and my cousins at the beach. (You may consider this cheating, as I did work a little bit with my sister on a novel we are writing together, but this was not the purpose of the trip.) We stayed at a pleasant hotel actually on the beach, and yes, it was off season, but warm enough to sit in the sun and put your toes in the water, if you were so inclined. We sat and looked at the ocean. We took rides and looked at scenery. We caught a spectacular sunset. We ate in seaside restaurants. We ate lobsters. We all talked a lot to each other, remembering family stories, looking at old photographs and catching up.
I did not measure my vacation in pages written, or stories plotted, or research done. I just had a nice time with people I don’t see often enough. And when I came home, I did have a little burst of creative energy, stemming from our seaside trip, but even if I hadn’t, it would have been rewarding and the best possible use of my time. Because sometimes, even though we can never really leave our creative side at home, a vacation should just be a vacation.
Photo Credit: Susan A. Hanson