Vacations rank at the top of almost anyone’s list of priorities. They represent a block of time where you don’t have to answer phone calls, respond to emails, turn in assignments, or pay attention during meetings. And, yes, it took some effort, tears, and promises to convince me that I could step away from work for a few days, but I’m better for it (workaholics are special people). However, we didn’t follow the “usual” pattern people take with their vacations – and not simply because of the Delta Variant wreaking havoc around the country. As a result, my writer brain spent six days exploding with ideas and thoughts. (Oh, all right – four days. Travel days aren’t the most inspiring things in the world)
And you can do the same thing.
Of course, that means you have to give up some tried-and-true vacation staples. Are you willing to take your time off and DO something? Or is turning into a slug somewhere more interesting to you? I mean, I get it: you’re beat down and exhausted. All you want to do is unplug your brain and stuff it into a jar. That’s what I NEEDED to do after the past…okay, so I can’t remember when my last official vacation was. And when we started talking about where to go and what to do, it was tempting to choose ANYWHERE and then turn into a zombie for the entire trip. After all, that’s what a vacation usually represents. But you’re not going to gain any inspiration from that kind of behavior. And if you want to find something new for your writing? You’re going to have to abandon those kind of plans.
Ready to think outside the vacation box and get your creative juices flowing? Okay, take a deep breath, and make sure you’re sitting down (because I’m going to shock you).
1. Venture “Off the Beaten Path”
Yes, I know, it’s exciting to go to the beach, amusement parks, or even into the city. You’ll end up wedged in with thousands of other people and get to wait in various lines. (Standing in line to place an order for food still counts) I’m not trying to knock that kind of vacation – especially since I’m a HUGE roller coaster fan and a devotee of Broadway. But with the pandemic suffocating the planet, none of those vacations are exactly practical. And, honestly, I’ve never come up with a new writing idea standing in line for an amusement park ride. (No matter HOW long the line stretched)
If you want to jump start your brain, you need to consider getting away from the popular vacation zones. Look for places that don’t get all of the tourists. You’ll find hidden gems that are every bit as stunning and amazing, without giant lines and long waits. (Not to mention saving you in the bank account department) Yes, I’m talking about using the natural wonders of the world to help you out here.
That waterfall? It’s called Roaring Run Falls. The complete hike came in around 2 miles and wasn’t horrible. And parking was FREE. (Plus, staying along the stream, we got a nice cooling breeze – unexpected bonus)
2. Wake Up Early
I know – it violates every rule of vacations. But if you get out of bed and venture out into the world, you’ll see things other people miss out on. When we hit the lake, NO ONE was out there; we had it to ourselves. That meant we got to see this mist veiling the creek. Talk about fodder for any number of stories! (I mean, we were already in a location called Fairy Stone) The temperature PLUNGED in the area, and everything was still and quiet. No matter what genre you aspire to, you could work with that scenery.
And the mist didn’t hang around. By the time we needed to turn back? The sun had burned it off. Even 30 minutes later, we would have MISSED it.
GET OUT OF BED AND GET OUT THERE!
3. Bring Your Phone
Yes, I told you to venture into No Man’s Land, and now I’m suggesting you bring a phone. (Stick with me here) No, you’re not going to get a signal – more than likely. We lost internet here and there throughout our trip. But that isn’t why you want your phone, anyway. (Seriously, you probably need a vacation from staring at it)
The camera on your phone will work whether you have internet capabilities or not. And that means you have a chance to capture inspirational photos, videos, or even audio. Scribble notes directly on the image for what triggered your story idea. You DON’T need to be a fantastic photographer, and the weight? It’s manageable on any hike.
4. Ditch the Itinerary
I’m the first to admit to having a vacation itinerary. I planned out where we were going, what times to break, and how everything was supposed to go each and every day. It helps everyone stay “together” when families or friends want to spend the day in one location but engage in different activities. But itineraries? They don’t work when you’re looking for inspiration.
So don’t worry about having one. The most we did on our vacation was decide where we were going each day. And even then? We stayed flexible. When we hit Fairy Stone State Park, we flipped our plans around, hunting for fairy stones in the morning and hiking afterward. (A brilliant idea, as it turned out, as the grueling 5-mile hike wiped us out) And we didn’t have a set time for how long we spent on our “hunt” – something I normally WOULD have done. Instead, we called it quits when we felt satisfied with our haul.
You can’t leave your mind open if you’re rushing from Point A to Point B. Instead, you’re going to spend your vacation looking at your watch. And you’ll end up missing the imagery around you. You have 24 hours in the day. Leave them open. Let the world around you fill them in.
When we got back to our cabin in the afternoons, I pulled up Evernote and jotted down all of the ideas that sprang up throughout the day. Everything from the mist across the creek, the glassy expanse of the lake, tangled tree branches, to our conversations in the car traveling from location to location went into notecards. (That’s right, I even came up with freelance writing ideas!) And I didn’t sacrifice ANY relaxation in the process – even waking up at 7:00 AM every morning.
Was it the grand vacation we originally started thinking about? Of course not. But did I bring home more ideas and a sense of rejuvenation I normally DON’T? You bet! And it’s given me a new perspective on vacations. So if you’re contemplating a trip, you might want to do the same. Your writing brain will thank you.