In this post, we look at how breaks can help with creativity. We’ve included nine reasons holidays are great for writers.
It might seem like you’re doing nothing, but a break and a change of scene can be just what you need to get the writing flowing again.
It’s interesting to note that many writers say they found it hard to get inspired or to be very productive during lockdown and all the recent pandemic restrictions.
On the face of it, this seems odd. Being stuck at home, as many were or still are, with more time at the keyboard (at least when not home-schooling or doing the day job) and fewer opportunities to socialise or travel, sounds ideal.
But the hard thing about writing isn’t really the typing. It’s the ideas. The inspiration. The fresh data.
For me, and doubtless for many other writers, inspiration for my stories and novels comes from the world about me. People I see on the bus. A bizarre anecdote from the office. An overheard conversation. A scene I witness in a place I’ve never been before – the frisson of the unfamiliar.
And that’s why I’ve included reasons holidays are great for writers.
9 Reasons Holidays Are Great For Writers
- You can get from away the stresses and strains of daily life, and escape tired habits and routines.
- New sights and experiences offer fresh inspiration and a chance to see the world afresh.
- Your mind can relax, allowing ideas to bubble up from the unconscious.
- You can bring a different side of your character to the fore. Especially if you’re in an unfamiliar country and trying to communicate in a different language.
- You have time to notice details of everyday life, dwell on conversations, and focus in on the present moment
- Often you’ll spend time brief but intensive time with some new people. In time you can draw on these encounters to create new fictional characters. Meeting new people always means hearing new stories!
- Holidays help you reconnect with your loved ones. It can be fun and creative to share impressions and brainstorm ideas together.
- Even if you write nothing but just rest and relax, you’ll return to your writing energised and refreshed.
- The creative headspace a holiday provides can give you ideas for reworking a draft or helping you resolve a thorny plot issue.
Ostensibly you go on holiday to spend time with family or friends, to kick back and ‘do nothing’. I find that holidays and breaks – and here I mean anything from a long-haul stay to a short day at the beach – have a unique ability to open up the writing imagination and get the creative juices flowing.
It’s not hard to see why. New pastures mean new experiences, new stories, a literal change of scene. Free from the stresses and strains of the daily grind, that relaxed frame of mind allows the unconscious to play, and ideas bubble up to the surface. Many writers have used these experiences to write great holiday stories.
Stories Inspired By Holidays
I’ve often toyed with the idea of writing a collection of stories – called Beach Reads, perhaps – that are all set on and inspired by holidays. Not proper travel, or living abroad – just holidays, even very modest ones.
I’ve done quite a few already:
- In my debut story collection Hotel du Jack, there’s one called ‘Ella G in a Country Churchyard’, in which a Dad tries to explain mortality to his nine-year-old daughter. This was inspired by a real-life conversation I had with my daughter on a short cottage stay with my family. We were staying right next to a lovely old church, and my daughter became fascinated by the dark interior and the gravestones.
- Another story in that collection, ‘The Beach Shop’, is a great example of how holidays breed stories. Every morning, staying on a campsite in France, I would get up early and get to the little shop for coffees and croissants. It was a little window in the day when the rest of the family were still sleeping. I took to studying my fellow regulars in the early crowd, and wondering what their stories were. When I got back home, I conjured up a whole scenario about a man who goes on holiday to win his ex-wife back, who is staying at the same campsite with her new partner.
- Likewise, the title story of the collection, ‘Hotel Du Jack’, was directly inspired by another family holiday, this time on the Isle of Wight. I was on the beach watching another dad, a real macho man. He was obsessed with his own body-building while his harassed-looking partner was running around looking after their two small children. On the same break, I’d found an early Anita Brookner novel in the rental where we were staying and began to read it. Somehow, I took to imagining what would happen if this macho man were to read such a novel, which, with its delicate, genteel sensibility, seemed to exist in a parallel universe to the world I imagined for him.
The Wolf In The Woods
As a final example, my new novel The Wolf in the Woods is about a couple who go for a break in a remote cottage in an unspecified location in the UK’s West Country. Their relationship is in trouble, they’ve been drinking too much, and they hope the week away might help solve some of their problems. Unfortunately, each of them is hiding a big secret from the other. And the odd behaviour of the sinister landlord next door, Wolf, only adds to the pressure.
This scenario was based on a lovely stay we had in a similar sort of place, with a landlord who was perhaps a tiny bit too attentive – although in our case, in a very lovely way. But my partner and I and my sister (who was also with us) had a lot of fun imagining a darker scenario. This fed directly into what became the book.
Make Holidays Work For Your Writing
To finish with, here are a few tips for how to make holidays work for you as writing inspiration:
- Remember you’re on holiday. No need to start writing furiously. Just jot down a few notes, take some pics, record some thoughts in your phone. You just need enough to ‘bottle’ your ideas to return to and develop when you’re back at your desk.
- Involve your fellow holidaymakers. If you have the beginnings of an idea, don’t go off and isolate yourself from your group. Instead, chat about it with your friends or family and get them to share in the brainstorming fun.
- Don’t feel bad if no great ideas come. Ideas always come eventually, but rarely arrive to order. Inspiration can’t be forced. It often sneaks up when you’re least expecting it. Maybe you’ll get a great holiday-inspired idea after you get back. Or maybe you won’t get any. But that’s OK too, because perhaps what you really needed was total relaxation, which will set you up to return to your work refreshed and energised.
The Last Word
I hope this post on the reasons holidays are great for writers inspires you to use your next break in your writing.
by Dan Brotzel. Dan is the author of Hotel du Jack, a collection of short stories, co-author of a comic novel-in-emails about an eccentric writers’ group Work in Progress (Unbound), and a solo novel, The Wolf in the Woods.
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