I recently returned from Albion, Indiana where I visited my wife's brother and his six children. We had made the 16 hour drive from Oklahoma because my wife's brother, his wife and his two oldest children went on a mission trip to Panama and needed my wife's Dad to watch the house and their four youngest children while they were away. We made the trip with him and helped out when we could.
I discovered something while I was up there, wiling away the hours that seemed to slip by slowly and methodically: there is a difference between a "vacation" and a "trip".
We are all familiar with the "trip". We head out on a journey with every stop and destination planned and calculated, we go to some touristy place where we have to go to five places every day, eat out at a thousand restaurants, wander around for hours at a bazaar or wait in line for five hours. In the end, when we return home, we feel more tired than when we began our journey, and our nerves are possibly more frayed than normal and possibly our relationships strained.
A "vacation" is where we relax. Perhaps we go to the beach and sit for a whole day reading a book. Maybe we get a cabin in the woods and just do whatever feels good each day, not really any plans at all. By the time we return our minds are clear, our purpose re-designed, our focus razor edge keen.
Indiana was a "vacation" for me. Each day we awoke when we felt like it, let the kids play with each other (there were eight of them with my four along) and did local things when we felt like it. We went to Shipshewana, a nearby tourist attraction, and took leisurely strolls down the street examining Amish wares and Amish buggies, sampling meats and cheeses, eating gluten free pretzels (there are such things) and shopping at the bulk store.
I didn't write a darn thing. I did, however, record an audiobook of my latest novel Come Apart, because the church (my relatives live in a parish) was utterly quiet at night and was a perfect studio. This was the only "busy" thing I did.
Because of this, I'm re-energized and ready to face what comes. I will start back to school next week (in-service days) and while I was in Indiana I wrote down some fantastic ideas for my next novel, fleshed out some of the outlines for the short stories I'm doing (when I felt like it) and generally feel more energized toward the tasks at hand.
My advice to you writers out there is to take a "vacation" and not a "trip". The vacation doesn't have to be expensive, and ours was not by any means, but it does have to be restful. Go someplace where you can divorce yourself of the "agenda". Don't take your iPad. Don't take your computer. Take a notepad.
You won't be sorry you went.