Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vacation of the Brain

By Nichole Giles

Usually, I have at least one story, and several characters, running through my head. Ideas for blogs and articles pop up at odd times, sometimes even in the middle of the night, and prompt me to stop whatever I’m doing to jot down a few notes so I don’t forget. There’s nothing wrong with that, or so I keep telling myself. After all, such is the life of a writer.

But every once in a while, even a writer’s brain needs a break. How do we find enough silence to allow such a break? How do we stop working on our current masterpiece or set aside our deadlines to achieve a vacation of the brain?

Honestly, I don’t have the answer to that question. At least, not for everyone. All I can do is to share with you the few times I’ve given my brain a successful vacation, and how important it’s been for me. It seems like I wrote a similar blog the last time I let my brain have a vacation, but that was two years ago. I’m thinking it’s way past time for another one.

If you follow my blogs, you’ll know I didn’t have a computer or Internet access last week. If you read my jewelry blogs at, you might have noticed that I posted about five blogs on the same day—which made my deadlines in advance for the same week. Okay, I admit. I was on vacation.
No big deal, right? I’ve been on vacation before, and not only do I always take my computer, but also a digital recorder, notebook, and possibly even my AlphaSmart. Usually, I turn on my computer at least once during a vacation, and very often I’m plotting in my head as we drive, fly, or otherwise travel to and from our destination. But every so often, as I’m packing for a trip, I’ll look at my laptop and ask myself if I really want to carry it on a plane. Or pack it in the car. Or…open it at all.

There are times when it is absolutely appropriate—actually, absolutely necessary—to do all your writing in advance, finish up that chapter or scene or (if possible) entire book and leave your writing self behind. Forget about the three or four weekly blogs. Forget about your characters and the scene that’s been bothering you. Forget about all of it and take your vacation in peace. Let your mind settle and sit and just be.

That’s what I did last week. I will admit to packing a handful of pens and a brand new notebook—just in case. I also bought a new romance novel—one I’ve had my eye on but haven’t allowed myself the time to read because there are so many other books in the stack on my dresser. And wouldn’t you know, this was the kind of vacation in which I was able to allow my mind complete and utter peace. To silence the voices and listen to the sound of waves crashing against the side of a ship as I slept dreamlessly. I didn’t even really read the novel except on the plane ride home (which was overly, extremely long due to delays and distance) and when I got home, the notebook remained empty.

Sure, my surroundings were inspiring. Extremely, beautifully inspiring. And I met some incredible people with unlikely, and interesting stories. Also very inspiring. The weather was beautiful, the scenery amazing and…well, you get it. I took lots of pictures, but didn’t write a single word about it while I was there.

When I came home, my mind was not only full of great ideas, but it was refreshed and thoughtful, and rested. I haven’t looked at my manuscript for almost two weeks. I’d say it’s time to start editing with rested eyes. Don’t you think?
But first, I have some journaling to do, some people to remember, and some pictures to caption. I spent the whole week just observing, now it’s time to see where that inspiration takes me. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Ronda Hinrichsen said...

I'm jealous. The only times I've been able to not write--even mentally--was when I've gone on fast-moving vacations. The kind where Idon't relax but see a lot in a short time, like the 10 countries in 10 days gig my family and I took a few years ago. Not very restful. Makes me wish for your kind of vacation. And yet, I wonder. Would I have the strength to stay away from writing if I had time to rest?

Nichole Giles said...

Ronda, I think my brain must have needed the rest, because there were a few times when I actually considered getting out that notebook and then talked myself out of it.

The problem is getting back to work after the vacation. Let me just tell you, it can be tricky to find the flow of words again.