Stress can be great for writing. Having too little time to practice the craft, in some odd way, makes it flow more easily. Take the case of the working writer on vacation.
I sometimes feel bold enough to call myself a writer. My job doesn’t depend on it, of course, but who finds meaning in their job? My sense of purpose comes in the off hours. Nevertheless, each day presents minimal opportunities to spend with my true vocation. Then comes vacation time.
Unstructured days spread out before me like a trail of breadcrumbs through the forest. I have stories I’ve been working on for months. I have at least two non-fiction projects going as well. At last I will have long, open days when writing will flow and I’ll live in the gooey comfort of constant inspiration. As if such things ever happen.
Vacation is family time. Writers—those of us who live alone in our heads—can’t simply separate ourselves from those who support us. As if to underscore the point, inspiration has booked her vacation at the exact same time as yours. I awake early and breathe the chilly mountain air. I stare out the window at the beautiful scenery. Nothing comes.
I know a fairly famous writer. His name on the cover guarantees a stint on the New York Times bestseller list. Sometimes he meets me here at our vacation place. He sets up an invisible boundary around himself. He writes. Family leave him alone.
Writing, I know, begets writing. The important thing is to practice. To practice constantly. Vacation comes and that lake looks awfully inviting when the days are so warm. These hiking trails aren’t on offer near my home outside New York City. I can sit and brood there.
I know when I get back to the frustration of a daily commute to a dead-end job, my muse will be cuddled around me in the morning, encouraging me to skip work so that I can write. Ideas will be urgent and persistent. I won’t have time to get the ideas down as they trip over one another in my head. In exasperation I will say, “I need a vacation.”