Okay, so I’m not actually writing this post from the beach — I can’t risk breaking my computer — but for the last week or so, I’ve been at a beach, both literally and figuratively. This blog finds you midway through my annual family vacation to Cocoa Beach, Florida.
I’m only 10% bringing this up to brag. Of course I’m enjoying some sun and some adult drinks, but in the last five years, this trip to the South has been more than just a buzzed family gathering; it’s been a writing retreat.
Writers will do anything to escape the maddening effects of writer’s block. You compile ideas throughout your day or week or life, and when you finally have time to write, that’s when the machine grinds to a halt. The switch flips so quickly. The first 200 words of this post fell out seemingly in a single breath. I stepped away for an hour, and it already feels difficult to complete. Anything you can do to vault the mental impasse created by writer’s block helps you retain your sanity.
I write for part of a living now. I have deadlines on a weekly basis to which I must adhere. I’m grateful for this situation. How cool is it to say you’re kind-of a writer? But constantly writing to satisfy the requirements of others can get tiring. In preparation for this Florida trip I got ahead of future deadlines and brought good’ol’pen’n’paper to do my vacation writing. When I hide my phone, writing with a notebook can actually help me focus. I can jot notes and quickly switch between ideas. The analog option is much slower than using a laptop, but the advantages offer an important alternative at the very least. It’s little change ups that help to shift your mindset.
I’ve written before about the merits of working from home. I love my apartment, and I’ll take working on the freelance schedule over spending any amount of time stalling to satisfy a clock (excuse the pretense). But sometimes you just gotta get out. Changing venues helps to clear your head and give you a fresh perspective. That sounds pretty hokey, but I’ll stand behind it. When I’m around my family at a beach I think differently than I do when I’m alone in my studio in Dallas. Thus, I write differently.
It’s not just the aesthetic environment that spurs stagnation. Familiar surroundings come with familiar distractions. Our phones are boobey traps, bent on eliminating all productivity, but leaving the TV, and the dishes, and the place you sit every time you zone out helps you turn the dial in your brain to a different setting.
Vacation provides a chance to relax and have fun. For me at this point, having a clear mind with which it write is about as fun as it gets. Staying at a timeshare on the Atlantic Ocean every time I get writer’s block isn’t a feasible option, so I look forward to this time every year. In fact, I have placed so much importance in this block of time that it’s become difficult to write while I’m here this year.
Writing is a paradox. If vacation is no longer an optimal writing opportunity, I’ll have to find a new changeup. Maybe instead of enjoying a breezy escape, I should lock myself in a windowless room and drink nothing but mineral water. Maybe the only way to begin writing, is to give up on it forever.
There are no absolute answers. The writing process will always be a shifting labyrinth. At least I got this thing done.