Finding the Zen of Vacation While Writing

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.

Our medieval vacation living quarters every year.

Our vacation living quarters (photo courtesy of Kate Newton via Flickr Creative Commons license).

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…

Sometimes we become so focused on the finish line, that we fail to find joy in the journey. -Dieter F. UchtdorfUtter 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…

GE Washer speed knobGranted 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!


9 thoughts on “Finding the Zen of Vacation While Writing

  1. Pingback: Finding the Zen of Vacation While Writing | Jennelle Holland

  2. That sounds like a wonderful vacation. My favorite place is in the south of France where I can visit a private beach. They have good looking, topless guys who serve you wine. Tweeted and shared.

    • Thanks, Ella. It’s a wonderfully relaxing time. The south of France? I’ve never been. It must be a glorious study in viniculture and anatomy all at once. Thanks so much for the tweet and sharing!

  3. I don’t know if we can set that mindset for the rest of the time. It is sort of like stress, some stress it good, it motivates us. I do think we can do it more though and I applaud your effort! Keep it up!

    • I can see why you’d say so about the stress being a motivator but I think it’s so easy to let it get out of control that I’m willing to try it a different way for now. Breathe, breathe, breathe. I’ll definitely have to practice a lot. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Wonderful post, Jennelle! I think you really nailed it. I think the “vacation” mindset can be difficult because we’re so hardwired as a society to not waste time, constantly be productive, and go-go-go. But it’s essential to relax, take some downtime, and recharge our batteries. That’s what I did at RWA-I definitely took some quiet time in my room when I needed it. We need to be good to ourselves and take care of ourselves before we can take care of others!

    • Thanks, Lisa. Relaxation and recharging is really important. You’re right about the go-go nature of American culture. Many cultures have the same thing but they also have a critical piece that I think we, as Americans, are missing, and that is the ability to say we’re truly on vacation. When someone asks me “How are you?” I want to honestly be able to say “Happy! I hope you are too.”

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