Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Reality-Check

It’s five in the afternoon and I’m sitting at the computer on another blistering, Aussie summer day, trying - without success - to think of something sage and coherent to blog about. It’s a disgusting 40C (104F) outside, which in my book warrants the ice-cold beer sitting within easy reach on my desk; plus, I was rather hoping the amber liquid would lubricate the wheels of my creativity. Sigh. No such luck. In this weather, all my mind can do is wander … in particular, to January and the holiday planned for my tribe and I.

At the last minute we were lucky enough to book eight days on a pristine stretch of beachfront on Kangaroo Island, a mere 45 minutes by ferry off the South Australian coast. Forget the palms and coconuts – a tropical paradise, it ain’t. But it’s just as beautiful, in a rugged, untouched wilderness kind of way. Like this:

Water, sun and sand … the perfect ingredients for a summer holiday.

And, although I’m sure none of my family will appreciate this fact, the very best part of this trip is that the booking includes a cleaner, who’ll come through and clean up our beach house after we leave! Oh, the bliss! So, for eight whole days, I will have very little to do in the way of housework (except maybe concocting a meal or two a day, and let me tell you, I’m working very hard at skipping out of that obligation!), and the kiddies will spend virtually all day, every day, on the beach - which all means I will have a lot of free time on my hands.

Now, how should I spend said time? Sleeping, novel reading, sipping champagne while watching the sun sink into the ocean … these all hit the top of my holiday “to-do” list. (g) But then again, I really should use that extra time to start revisions, shouldn’t I? It’d be kinda cool to sit beneath a beach umbrella, manuscript in hand, editing away …

In a word – NO.

Because I know that in reality, there really won’t be as many peaceful hours as I think. In reality, my family will at some point want to see mum, with her vampire-white legs, down on the beach building sandcastles with them (and mum actually really wants to do this – erm, not flash the eye-blinding skin, but muck around with the kiddies.) There will be day-trips, movie-nights, sleep-ins …

Sigh. I’ve done this before (and I’m sure I’m not alone); I see the holidays, with their lack of routine and the DH around a bit more to help with the kids, decide to use the extra time to tackle the writing, and then set my sights too high. During the holiday season, it is inevitable that real life will take over - as it should, IMO - and trying to achieve lofty writing goals only leaves me frustrated, not to mention extremely peeved at the people and/or situation cramping my writing-style.

No one wants the Grinch around at Christmas!

So, instead of diving into revisions, I think I'll finish reading through all the useful revision advice I’ve printed out from the Forum over the past few years; or maybe work through a bit of Don Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook; or re-read a couple of books I want to study for their use of suspense and structure; or begin to sketch a rough synopsis … or simply daydream about my book and see what gems of inspiration the old subconscious may send up. Nothing *has* to be started; nothing *has* to be finished.

So, if you’re looking at your holidays and rubbing your hands with glee, desperate to get stuck into the writing now you actually have some time … I’d recommend you take a reality-check and make sure you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment.

Think about simply editing existing scenes, or doing rough sketches of new scenes, or reading a book on the craft of writing, or doing a bit of research on the net. Don’t abandon all writing related activities; just scale down your expectations and set goals that match your circumstances. You’ll feel good because you *will* achieve something; plus, your friends and family will like you a whole lot better when you’re not a seething mass of frustrated rage. (g)

So, how about you? What do you plan to do with your writing, with any extra time you have these holidays?


  1. I've given up on making plans to write during my time off, it never happens! As you say, there's friends and family to see, books to be read, etc...I never get around to writing. So I don't make writing goals for my holidays, then I don't feel guilty about not achieving them *g*

  2. Hey Rach,

    Well, I live in the land of Grinch, aka The States. Not only has DH's vacation been banned for the month of December -due to economic issues. :P But They've ONLY given him Christmas day off. Hmm... maybe less Grinch and more Scrooge.

    But LOLOLOL on the vacation thing (soo, jealous, btw, your's sounds awesome!) because I had the same grand thoughts when we went to the beach. Like you, I had lofty thoughts of 'retreat' style writing. Not so. More like chase the kids, plop down on the couch and blab with the grownups come night fall. Heck, I didn't even WANT to touch my computer -the poor thing that I hauled all the way there only to get dusty. :)

    As for books, I just got C.S. Harris's newest book, What Remains of Heaven (sing song voice here). I'm holding back till Christmas night, when all are asleep. Just a suggestion...

  3. Dear Rachel,

    Oh, always always pick that family time over anything else. You will treasure those memories more than any successes in your life. Just my two cents!

    I took along books for beach vacations. We had this tiny tent that was quite easy to set up on the beach. Family members could get into the water, then scurry into the tent for a nap or a read.

    The only writing I've ever done on a family vacation was keeping a journal that was tended to for a short time each evening.

    Have a wonderful vacation!

  4. Hey Rachel! I wasn't going to sign in, but save all my commenting for when I get home, but your phrase "disgusting 40C (104F)" put me over the edge - it's -24C with the windchill today, and was -60C with the windchill in Edmonton yesterday (no need for Fahrenheit at those tempreatures!). I know you guys have been having wild fires again, so I won't complain and compare too much, but garn, my toes almost fell off this morning and I was only outside for 15 minutes! (
    All that said, I'm really really jealous of your holiday. And not just cos it's warm - anywhere the sea is, that's where I want to be. Eight whole days, no cleanup? Wow!
    Spot on about the writing, too - or lack thereof. Back home it's easy to plan for quotas, but I've tried reading on the beach and I can't even do that with 99% of the books out there, not with the sun on my face; I can't imagine trying to write (unless inspiration strikes of course and you just have to get a scene down).
    I've got a few days' off work myself, but know already that it'll be taken up with family and visiting friends up north (hello, even colder!). So my only goal is to some point, somehow, get to the library and do research. We shall see... I have a feeling I'm going to do nothing but read Cat Who books and lots of YA... and knit!

  5. Helen - the guilt-free path to the holidays is definitely the way to go.

    Kristen - yeah, I won't be bothering to take my laptop, especially since it's highly unlikely we'll even get the net where we'll be. Gah! Withdrawal symptoms, here we come! Oh, and I finished What Remains of Heaven a week or so ago (NO willpower, here (g)). Sebastian gets put through the wringer a whole lot more in this book, IMO - I'll be interested to hear what you think of it.

    Stephanie - can't wait to get away! And yes, I agree - time with the family is precious indeed. My eldest has just hit the tween stage - lots of loooong, inane phone conversations with his friends - and it won't be long before going away with the family will be torture for him. Sigh. Where does the time go?

    Deniz - I hope you somehow stay warm. My neighbours are setting off for Canada tomorrow, and are kind freaked by the prospect of -30C temps! That's just insane; but a darn good excuse to stay in bed all day reading (or knitting (g)) IMO.

  6. Yes! After the rounds of family and friends, I've got next week off to do just that - read and knit and scrapbook and... well, except, I've got to get to the library and start research!
    Where in Canada are they headed? Not Alberta, I hope - it's colder there than here!