I don’t think you can expect to keep up your writing routine, whatever that is, when you’re on vacation with other people who are not writers. If you’re on vacation with family or friends, you’re probably crammed into a car or a room with them much of the time, and the times when you’re not they’re going to want you to “do something” with them not “sit and stare at your laptop.” Writing! It’s totally the same as putzing about the interwebs!
When I was a kid, I always used to take my binder of writing projects (mentioned here; all fortunately long-ago destroyed) with me on family vacations—and bring it back untouched. When did I think I was going to write? In the backseat of the car, with my brother poking me? In a motel room with my parents and brother and the TV competing for my attention? In line at an amusement park? It was wildly unrealistic.
You’d think I’d have learned from my youthful experiences, but no. In subsequent years, I kept doing the same thing in whatever its current incarnation was, printing out my current project “to work on” in desktop days, hauling along my laptop in more recent years. Actual writing done on communal vacations: not much.
Back in the day I had the aforementioned binder containing works-in-progress, a journal (my secret book), and my commonplace book. What I didn’t have was what I really needed for those trips: a writer’s notebook.
For a long time, I carried notebooks around with me, but they weren’t writer’s notebooks, they were journals. Journals can be wonderful, but inherent in the format are certain expectations, chiefly, that you will update them on a somewhat regular basis with semi-coherent, narrative entries. Such expectations (even if self-imposed) meant that writing in my journal often felt like a chore at the end of a long day, rather than a respite from excesses of sun and socializing.
I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to discover the beauty of a writer’s notebook. A writer’s notebook contains no expectations, implicit or explicit. You write in it when you want. You write in it what you want. It’s not your work-in-progress, your journal, or your commonplace book—but it might be a bit of all of these, plus your reading log, your to-do list, your address book, and anything else you want to throw in there. It’s a mutt, a messy hybrid. The perfect thing to take on vacation when you know you’re not going to have a lot of time to yourself.
With my writer’s notebook, I never feel stressed about not writing enough on vacation—whatever I end up writing, even if it’s just one word, is just the right amount. After all, you never know where that one word might lead…
Of course, there’s another kind of vacation. The kind you go on alone (or maybe with other writers). It might be a formal writing retreat, or perhaps a solo adventure of another kind, but either way, you get to set the schedule. Which means you can write as much as you want without ever getting the “you’re still on that computer?!” look from anyone.
When I finally finish the dissertation I’m taking a real vacation. Alone. Perhaps I will bring along a story or essay to work on—then again, maybe not. But I will definitely scribble in my writer’s notebook.
All I ever wanted
Had to get away
Meant to be spent alone
(I love how this—the official video—sounds exactly like a crappy old cassette. I mean, how else would you expect it to sound?! 😉 )