Thursday, June 26, 2008

Isolation holiday

Some authors dream of squirreling themselves away at a writers colony, engulfed in peace and quiet so they can finish their Amazing Epic Work. Others take the advice of magazines and try to carve out mini-retreats by unplugging phone lines and hiding in the closet with a laptop and a water bottle. That’s just not my style; it feels too much like a deadline. I prefer an isolation holiday, a summer vacation for ideas.

If anyone has ever watched Brent Butt in the Canadian comedy ‘Corner Gas,’ then you know about the true ‘staycation,’ not the one touted by the media as the answer to a downer summer economy. In one episode, Brent packs a cooler, takes a lawn chair across the road, and spends his vacation imagining he’s going to all kinds of exotic lands. He even mails real postcards, a nice touch for a tropical escape that’s all in his head.

His getaway is similar to what I do every summer: when work slacks off, as it does in June and July, I usually take a week or two and mentally get away from everyone and everything. I stock up on books, music and cool treats and just float off in my own little world. I don’t write unless I really, really want to, but I keep a notebook nearby for ideas. Of course, I still have to do the necessary things, like laundry and cooking dinner and paying bills, but I get back to my staycation as soon as possible, bobbing along in a wonderful, stress-free frame of mind. I think of it as walking zen meditation with a groovy 1970s soundtrack. And I take time to enjoy, without guilt, a skill I excelled in when I was much younger: daydreaming.

Each year, the isolation holiday pays off. Last year, I had ideas for three novels sketched out, now works-in-progress. So far this year, I’m working on a short story, after the plot grew from seedling to bouncy ripe fruit in just a couple of days. My break from reality is always my most creative time, with no deadlines, no pressure, no inner critic, just the pure enjoyment of the written word and the endless possibilities of a loosed imagination.


Anonymous said...


I keep hearing people say that do getaways for writing. I think I'd go stir crazy. You know what keeps me writing? My screaming editor :-) Am I going to see 50 pages this weekend or not?

I think I'll try to getaway and see what I can turn out. Maybe, my editor will like me better.

Anonymous said...

I love this idea. Now if I could get the husband and the boy to cooperate with Mama having an isolation holiday it'd be allllll goooood!
Great post!

JJ Cooper said...

I have just started a three week vacation. Well...sort of. My wife has taken the kids on a holiday and I'm at home because I still have to work during the day. I expect to get plenty of writing done.


Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

I think a staycation is a great idea. It's the kind of vacation you can get away to any time you like even if it's only for a few minutes.

As professional writers there is a great deal of pressure to consistently produce wordcount. Taking a break from that stress is sure to reinspire our creativity.

And who doesn't love to daydream? :-)

Rebecca Laffar-Smith
Writer's Round-About

colbymarshall said...

I'm currently at the beach, chasing the unrealistic goal of finishing my first draft while here. I probably won't make it that far, but I have actually gotten a lot done. Then's raining outside, so if I'm cooped up in here you never know!

Sarah Heacox said...

Humm, I write better when not-on-vacation. When I go on vacation, my brain usually stays at home.

Tina said...

GREAT! I'm doing two isolation vacations this year and its really great that I'm taking time out to work. seems odd but as you've said, it really works. great post;)


Anonymous said...


I figured out something that helped me get into the groove of writing. As you know, my WIP is set in the 30s so as I started today's writing, I grabbed some of my old Motown CDs and it really helped me capture a moment and time.

You know when songs were about fun, and love. Wow! I'm so pumped!