A Writer on Vacation, Not Writing

I didn’t write a word during our vacation last week. It’s taken me a solid five days to feel ready to get back to writing. I’ve been sighing childishly at muddled drafts and blank pages since we got home on Sunday. Is that a sign of a good vacation or a bad one? Was I refreshed or exhausted? I’m still not sure.

I did barely any reading, either. A bit on the plane, a bit in bed before going to sleep. Paragraphs of ebooks read in a restless crouch over my phone. A book was always nearby, but rarely opened.

People, places, things

The specifics of the vacation are irrelevant, I suppose, but it was a family trip: our annual Yanksgiving visit with Scott’s family. The pertinent point is, I suppose, that our days were well occupied with people, places, and things. We didn’t do a lot, exactly, but it’s not like other vacations, when it’s just me and Scott doing our thing. I could have made time to write. But I didn’t.

Tinsel-wrapped palm trees in Miami

Tinsel-wrapped palm trees in Miami

The worst part is probably that I expected that I would make the time. I brought my laptop, although it only emerged from my backpack going through airport security, two notebooks, and three pens.

I imagined having room on the plane to take out my laptop. Waking early and scrawling words of wonder in my notebook from a strange bed. Pounding out an outline for another short story I won’t finish. None of it happened.

At least I was relatively modest about the books I brought to read: only four. As long as you didn’t count the dozen or so ebooks on my phone, most of which remained unread.

The social and the solitary

There was time. There is always time. We spent hours in airports and on airplanes and in cars. Mornings, afternoons, evenings. Quiet moments when everyone is staring at their phones. But my brain wasn’t in that place. My brain was in a different place, being with family, exploring cities, talking, eating, drinking.

There’s a time to be with people, to see and touch and taste and hear, to be present in the moment, to see new places and walk all day. And there’s a different time, a completely separate time, to make something of those experiences in your head or on the page. That time requires solitude.

I couldn’t do both of those things at once. Not on this vacation. I can’t be alone and engaged at the same time. So it’s not something to worry about. It’s something to accept, to anticipate, to move on from, although it might take five solid days to do so.