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photo by Mike Licht

photo by Mike Licht

 I have a consistent writing routine when it comes to my novels. I get up around the same time every morning and work on my manuscript and I stay with it until I reach whatever goal I set for the morning. I research, work on craft, blogs, articles or look ahead to the next day’s work. Simple. Just like any other routine. I do it over and over.

So why is it so difficult to get back to my writing routine after vacation? I thought I’d come to the page refreshed, eager and ready to dive in.  I thought the words would flow so fast and furious I might set my laptop on fire with the speed of my fingertips. Yeah, right.

Instead, I sat and stewed. Parts of my book looked unfamiliar as if someone else wrote the words. I go back through the manuscript to read more and find out I’m no longer as excited about the book.  I’m pretty certain every word I write is crap.  Suddenly I’m cleaning closets, trimming the dogs nails and throwing parties for 30 or more.

Do you know why avid exercisers never want to abandon their exercise routine while on vacation? Because they will pay for it in sore crampy muscles and a decrease in fitness after they get back. 

Like an avid exerciser, when we lose touch with our writing project, we pay for it. How do you keep that connection while you’re on vacation without missing out on the fun or cheesing off the family by “working”? Here’s a great suggestion from author Heather Sellers’s book Chapter After Chapter.

Work on existing parts of your current project. Before you leave, write down a fifteen minute assignment for each day. Flesh out a troublesome scene, add a description of character’s clothing or make the setting more vivid. Stick to the fifteen minute rule because your heart isn’t going to be into a forty-five minute assignment while everyone else is at the pool having a barbeque or while your mind is tracking plane, bus or boat schedules.

The pages you produce during this time aren’t what matters, it’s the connection to your book that counts, the connection that’s going to make it easier for you to come back to your routine when you get home. Fifteen minutes.

I went on an eighteen day trip to Alaska and the Yukon in May. If you saw the size of my suitcase you’d understand why I didn’t bring my laptop. I couldn’t leave my writing behind for almost three weeks. So I prepared and  brought a folder with hard copies of pages that I slipped in my carry-on with post-it note assignment instructions. I brought some extras for downtimes like airports or trains. Easy-peasy. When I returned, I incorporated the work I did on vacation and slipped back into the current project with much less angst. I was back in my regular routine and writing happily two days later.

Fifteen minutes. Paper, pen, post-its. Next time vacation rolls around, you have a plan.

Do you have a special way of returning to your work after you’ve been gone? Is it an easy transition or do you have difficulties? What works for you? What doesn’t work?

Next time: Creative Ingredients

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