Thursday, 20 August 2015
Away time - reading, writing and thinking
What is the best way for a writer to spend his or her holiday? Should one "switch off" from writing, seize the opportunity to do some reading, or carry on writing, on the basis that it's important to keep the momentum going? This is the sort of question, of course, to which there is no single answer, because so much depends on the personal attitude of the individual writer. But it's still a topic that interests me - I mused on it while I was sunning myself in Portugal recently - and I'm interested in the views of others.
I've seldom done any writing on holiday,and I certainly don't take a laptop with me. At most, I'll make a few notes, even when an idea for a story in the holiday destination springs to mind, as sometimes it does. I find that the sustained concentration I need to write simply isn't possible on holiday,and I don't even find it desirable to try to capture it. There's always a risk of ruining the holiday (a day job crisis once made a bit of a mess of a holiday of mine, about fifteen years ago, and I still recall it with regret.) Some writers go on "retreats" of one kind or another - Gladstone's Library is one popular and very tranquil choice - to get in some sustained writing, and I can certainly see the merit of that, but such retreats are not quite the same as a holiday in the sun (or the rain, if you're unlucky...)
But although I want to enjoy the break, I always like to read when the chance arises. And I read crime rather than getting away from it all with something completely different, simply because I like crime fiction so much, and to me it's a joy and never a hardship to read some of the many books I've never found time for previously. Going on a cruise is great for reading (even a river cruise, where there are no "sea days", and thus less free time), because there's something intensely pleasurable about sailing along, enjoying a good book in the company of ever changing scenery - or even an endless stretch of the ocean - and ,perhaps, later in the day, a glass of something from the bar. When I was in Portugal, I read several novels that will feature as Forgotten Books before long, and good fun they were.
But there's something else about being a writer on holiday. The chance to relax can be very helpful in liberating the mind. To take a specific example, I have for a while been tussling with a plot dilemma in the story idea I am working on for my next novel. Then, while wandering around Porto, the solution simply came to me, at a point when I wasn't consciously looking for it. A eureka moment. Having the luxury of time to think is really beneficial for a writer, in my opinion. And that's a luxury that a holiday affords.
But so much for my thoughts. What do you reckon?