When you take a break, take a break!

Reading time: About 3 minutes

Here’s my advice: don’t plan to write when you go on holiday. Instead, take a break….

My husband and I had been out for dinner. I awoke at 4:30 the next morning feeling vaguely “off.” After tossing and turning for half an hour, I decided to get up and work. The next thing I knew, I was in the bathroom vomiting.

I dislike nausea with an intensity that’s completely out of proportion to the pain it causes me. I’ve upchucked fewer than 10 times in my life (and this includes when I was pregnant with triplets.) But two of those times occurred in the incident described above, two weeks ago.

I had food poisoning.

And here’s what made it even worse: we were just about to go to Palm Springs, on holiday. So, instead of performing my patented “get-everything-done-before-leaving-town” manoeuvre, I spent the next day in bed. I was groggy, dozing and trying hard not to throw up again.

Could things possibly get worse? Indeed they could. Thanks to a storm, we lost our power at 5 pm so I packed my suitcase by the light of a battery-powered headlamp. Sick, tired and unable to listen to the radio, I went to bed at 8 pm and woke at 11 pm when the power finally came back on. I said hello/goodbye to our adult kids, and rallied myself to get up and work on essentials for an hour before crawling back into bed.

We left for the airport at 6:15 am.

I had planned to work on my book while away. It would only take 30 minutes a day, I figured, and I would be relaxed and wouldn’t feel the pressure of my regular job. I enjoy writing and figured it would be a welcome, pleasurable break — that would serve to throw the larger break of the holiday into even greater relief.

That, at least, was the plan. But I was too sick for it. Our February holiday usually consists of hiking in the canyons and lying by a pool, reading. This time, I could barely read. My writing ambitions dissolved like salt in warm water.

Worse, in addition to feeling bad about not meeting my commitment to myself, I also felt awful about not meeting my commitment to the group of people writing a book with me. As a way of ensuring that we get our work done, we post our writing achievements daily. This kind of external accountability is excellent way to ensure performance. It can’t overcome food poisoning, however.

But now that I’ve recovered and had a 10-day break from all my work, I’m seeing things in a new light.

  • I have more energy. Instead of feeling tired and worn down, I again feel energetic and enthusiastic.
  • I have better ideas than I had before leaving. My creative brain works more effectively when it’s had the chance to sleep in, view different scenery and feel the blankness of the bright cerulean blue desert sky.
  • I have longer days now — not in the negative sense of days that just won’t end because of the crushing volume of work required — but in the positive sense of days that stretch out with seemingly endless possibilities.

Funnily enough, while I was away, a student from my Extreme Writing Makeover course sent me an email. “Question about writing five days a week,” she wrote. “Why not write seven?”

Here was my reply: “The main reason is that you don’t want to burn yourself out. If you take some time off each week, you’ll be renewed rather than spent. This will allow you to maintain the writing habit. Slow and steady wins the race.”

The same thing is true about vacations. Make sure you take enough time to truly renew yourself.

14-02-mt-pleasant-cover-smHow do breaks help YOUR writing? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in my blog (just scroll to the end for the “comments” section.)  And, congratulations to Lori, the winner of my book prize, A Case of Exploding Mangoes for her comment on my Feb. 11 post. Your book will go into the mail as soon as you email me your street address, Lori. Anyone who comments on today’s blog post (or any others in March) by March 31/14 will be put in a draw for a copy of the very funny novel Mount Pleasant by Don Gillmor.

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