I’ve gone on the same vacation every August (late July into early August) for about the last 30 years. Setting aside why I would do the same thing every year, let’s take a look at a typical vacation day for me.
I wake up at the crack of dawn and step outside my very medieval military tent and do some Tai Chi. I am one of perhaps one or two other people in a camp of 200 (out of 10,000+ at the campground) who is actually awake and moving. The other guy that wakes up early sees me and without words, we head to a medium-size circus tent and share coffee with the owner of one of the best commissaries in the campground. About the time that people start showing up for breakfast (usually around 7:15 am or so), my buddy and I head back to camp and I do whatever the heck I want for the rest of the day. If I want to read, I read. If I want to take a class in medieval bead making, I take a class. If I want to watch several thousand of my closest friends beat each other up in medieval armor, fantastic, I do that.
I do whatever the heck I please, when it pleases me to do so. I let go of all this irritation of working and simply enjoy the moment. I don’t worry about deadlines or projects or how the client is going to react. I let it all go and immerse myself in what ever I’m doing. Every so often I pull my head up out of what I’m doing and look around to make sure that everyone else I care about is safe and happy, but I focus most of my vacation thoughts on simply enjoying myself RIGHT NOW, this very moment. I enjoy myself so much that time has very little meaning.
Why is it that this “vacation mind” I’ve cultivated doesn’t extend into my day job or my personal writing? I’m a relatively peaceful person (though blog sister Erica might argue that point given the number of ways I’ve described a person’s death to her through text messages, but I digress). Why can’t I take the peace that I achieve quite easily on vacation and take it into the real world when I’m at home writing?
I’m thinking I can, actually. I just have to figure out how to do it even when I’m still writing my little heart out at either the day job or when I open up my latest novel in progress. Here’s my plan.
I will immerse myself joyfully in my writing…
Utter and complete immersion is what I focus on while I’m on vacation. I literally become another person for a while by enjoying every moment of thing that I’ve chosen to do. I need to find that same kind of “spotlight” focus and enjoyment any time I move on to the next task while I’m writing. I need to realize that every moment of that task is precious and I should simply focus on that rather than worrying about what I should be doing next or if I’m going to be meeting or missing a deadline. I need to simply enjoy the experience of writing, regardless of what it is I’m writing.
I will occasionally come up for air and look around…
When I’m utterly focused on my work I have a tendency to completely ignore the entire world around me. Sometimes this isn’t to my advantage. I don’t hear the warning signs of trouble on a work project because I’m not listening to the people work around me. I sit too long, sometimes for hours on end, and my shoulders start hurting from me hunching over my keyboard. I need to get up and move around, perhaps go get a glass of water. I need to sometimes pop my head up and listen using a “floodlight” focus to make sure I’m not missing out on a task that needs doing more than the one I’m currently obsessed with. Once I’ve actually popped up for a bit, I can go back to that spotlight focus, but not until I’ve really paid attention to what’s going on around me.
I will stop worrying about how fast things have to happen…
Granted in the writing world there are always time-related issues that will need my attention. I will always need to make sure I don’t miss deadlines for my writing. I need to make sure I show up to conference calls on time. I need to pay my bills on or before the deadlines. But there’s a lot of time-related crap that I worry far too much about. Am I writing fast enough? Am I learning the technology for my day job fast enough? I worry too much about these things when I’m working and it’s not healthy. It leads to fear and “fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering” (thanks, Master Yoda).
I will stop worrying about everything else too…
I need desperately to stop trying to be in control of every single moment because it doesn’t allow me to focus at all. This one will be the hardest for me. Call it Dutch Christian Reformed guilt or Oldest Sibling guilt or whatever. Tomorrow and later haven’t happened yet. I need to get rid of the fantasy that I need to be perfect at what I do or that I need to never screw something up. I need to really worry much less about what I think should happen and be happy with what I’m doing, writing, or speaking right now.
Is it possible for me to get so good at this vacation mind thing that it becomes permanent? Or is this just a pipe dream? I guess there’s only one way to find out. Practice makes perfect, right? Wish me luck!