I was talking to a writer friend of mine in Australia last week and I asked her which among her current writing projects was her favorite. She told me hers and I told her mine, and I was surprised that my answer was the apocalyptic road trip, not the alien invasion novel that I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. Her suggestion was to take time off from the novel and focus on the road trip story.
This is sound advice for any writer who feels threatened by burnout. We all get it, even with the stories that we would leave our spouses for in order to have an affair with. There comes a time when you have to say, “I think we should see other writing projects.” This working vacation is not an excuse to do absolutely nothing. Far from it. It’s an opportunity to give attention to those writing pieces that you’ve neglected for far too long; for example, a short story that you started months ago and haven’t had time to get beyond the first page.
For me, it’s a chance to get research done on another novel idea that’s plodded along at a snail’s pace. I love to research for stories. It counts as a measure of productivity and it’s always fun to learn new things.
A working vacation also gives you space from your writing that allows you to see flaws you could before when you were too involved. A while ago, I mentioned that I was working on a detective story. Almost as soon as I took time off from my invasion novel, I realized that there were huge problems with it, mostly issues regarding setting up the characters and establishing their relationship to each other. In addition to story research, I’m not taking the time to go back and re-figure the plot for the detective story, which actually might not end up in the mystery genre at all.
If you find you’re having similar problems and feel like you drive to write is slowing down, a working vacation might be just the thing you need. The exact nature of this downtime is up to you and depends on what writing you’re doing, but the ultimate goal is to get your motivation back.