the other side of vacation

I recently wrapped up two weeks of travel on the East Coast. It was a busy two weeks, full of visits with family and friends, two states and the District of Columbia, beachgoing, old-fashioned fun on the boardwalk, good food, and a toddler who seemed to grow a couple of inches and begin speaking in sentences just in the time we were gone. Of course, there were also several flight delays (good times, with the aforementioned toddler in tow), traffic delays (a 2.5 hour trip to the beach that took, ahem, FIVE HOURS. Did I mention the toddler?), a day of torrential rain, and summer bug bites. In short, it was a vacation, with good and bad — but mostly good — adventures intertwined.

And now I’m back. Well, not just now. In fact I returned to San Francisco five days ago. The jet lag is gone, and I’ve caught up on laundry, phone calls, email, etc., etc., etc. Everything should be back to normal. Except that it’s not. I haven’t written a thing, despite having the time over the past two days to get back into it. This happens every time I take a trip or have a guest visiting me here. I don’t have the personal time to write while I’m traveling anymore (see above, re: toddler) and so when I’m away, I’m away from my writing. With all of the activity of visiting and traveling, I don’t even really think about my writing much. When relatives visit us here in SF, the same thing happens. They want to spend time with us, and we’re busy, and the writing schedule goes out the window.

And then I’m faced with an empty, where was I? feeling. And a blank, blank page. You would think that a vacation would leave me refreshed and full of ideas. It does, in a way. But I’ve come to dread this weird post-vacation interlude, the days in which I want to write, but can’t seem to turn my brain back to it. My stories, when I open the documents, feel foreign, and I can’t remember where I was going with them. I know that I have to trust that my brain will bring me back to wherever I was in my writing. I know that eventually, it always does. But in the intervening days (weeks? I hope not.) I find myself sitting down to write, and then getting back up again. I tell myself to “stay in the room” but in the next minute I’m downstairs making coffee, or on Facebook reading about friends’ activities.

I’m wondering if there are ways around this post-vacation dead time I seem to experience. I’m wondering what other people do to stay in the room, even when they can’t be in the room. What do you do? How do you keep up momentum when life gets in the way?

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6 thoughts on “the other side of vacation

  1. Great question! I am undergoing a test right now, as I have traveled to Portland for a conference. The schedule will preclude much writing, which was going well, and I dread that suffering you mention upon returning. So I have promised myself that I will at least stick my head in my book, read and think a bit. We’ll see. But you mentioned house guests and I think that’s even harder on writing! On a trip I can usually get in SOME time, but guests are guests.

    • Yeah, the house guests are worse. I mean, ahem, it’s nice to have them visit and all, but… it’s detrimental to the writing routine, perhaps more so than travel, since there’s the prep for the guests that always seems to suck up so much time, i.e. cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.
      Are you at a writing conference? If so, I hope to hear more!

  2. It’s a tough transition either way and I dread it too, no matter how fun I’d been having. Sometimes, when I just can’t gather all my wool, I’ll grab the first few paragraphs of story or a section of a novel and just retype it. Seems to prime the pump, at least a little bit, when my own brain seems dry. Doesn’t always work that day, but the next day when I sit down, I don’t feel as rusty.

  3. I’m struggling with that right now, as the school summer holidays draw to a close. They’ve utterly derailed everything I was working on. What I crave most of all is just space to get back into it – a tiny bit of unoccupied, uninterrupted space that lasts more than half an hour. Like possibly right now.

    But I also need that prevarication time – I find I can’t just (re)start right back without a bit of prevarication…

  4. I think everyone feels that way when they get back from vacation. My solution is to take it easy on myself and ease back into writing. I may make it a goal to just reread what I late wrote, or reread my whole WIP, or do just one or two hours on whatever it is. And before I know it, within a few days, I’m back in the rhythm and writing again. I think the key is butt-in-chair because it’s so tempting, when your writing feels foreign, to do everything else BUT write. Good luck! And I send you an invite to the Grotto open house. Hope you can make it so I can meet you in person!

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