On my trip at the start of the summer, someone asked me how I can write on holiday with family. Our family motto must be Have Toothbrush, Will Travel. When my son lay in a box dying in the hospital, I promised him a wonderful life, and for us, travel is part of that.
There’s little that entertains both my son and husband for hours at a time that qualifies as holiday entertainment. And I can’t lock them up in the closet when we travel so I can get my writing done. Funny how that happens. Plus, the whole purpose of travelling as a family is for us to spend a chunk of time together. Writing all day isn’t an option.
5 Tips to Help You to Write on Holiday with Family
1. Establish Reasonable Expectations
My family is my number one priority. Writing comes a close second. When my husband and I plan our trips, I let him know how much time I need to accomplish my deadlines. However, I also recognize that I have a role to play as parent and partner during the trip. I won’t get a block of 8 hours a day to write when we are together. Instead of setting a huge goal that I can’t complete, I create smaller goals. That way, my family doesn’t feel ignored and I don’t feel like a failure by not accomplishing a major project.
We plan ahead. Oh boy, do we plan ahead. Today is the last day of July and I already know what kind of trip I’m taking in October of next year. I get that degree of practicality doesn’t work for everyone or every trip. At some point, especially with a family holiday, planning rears its ugly head. During that time, I say what I, whether it’s, “Hey, I want to go to the Ashmolean for research,” or “I need two hours to myself.” Then we try to work it into the schedule in a way that works for us both.
2. Adapt Your Writing Routine
Typically, I’m up at 6 a.m. writing, the same time I need to get up if I’m working in the hospital. Genetically, I’m sure I’m a night owl. When I consider hubby and boy-child, working into the wee hours is not the best choice for our happy family life. If getting up early or cranking out a couple of hours at the end of the day isn’t part of your regular routine, squeeze those extra hours out of your day for at least three weeks before you travel. Then, your body may be more accustomed to doing it on your trip. Now, my family expects me to disappear before breakfast and again for an hour or so in the later evening on most days as part of my working mom routine.
I expect that I won’t have as much time to write on holiday, during family trips, or when my son is at Camp Underfoot for the summer. If my husband is going to take my son off my hands for a couple of hours, I set aside the work and give them my attention upon their return. I also offer the same “parent time off” for my husband. On our recent trip, hubby had a night out with old work mates, and I stayed with Torran in the hotel. I had writing time, and hubby had a night off. Later, he took Torran on the “Speedy Blue” train into London, without me so I could met a deadline. Took us quite a long time to figure out that balance.
4. Take Advantage of Distances
Instead of blocking out heaps of time in the hotel, I’ll write on the flight, or during a car journey. Granted, with all the distractions inside a vehicle, it’s not the most conducive time to be creative, but it’s something. Plus, if my my husband and son have distractions (where appropriate), then I can sit back and scratch my way through an edit. When I can, I read or write when waiting for a flight or train. I’ve raised my son to be a reader too. That and gawking at plane porn through the windows with daddy helps me steal a few minutes to myself.
5. Muses Wait for No One – Neither Do Deadlines
I try to finish anything with a deadline before I travel, especially if I don’t have ready access to the internet. Being prepared before I go gives me the freedom to do what I want on the trip, and I’m more likely to enjoy myself. I love the story Steven King shared in On Writing about writing while travelling. He asked the motel owner for a typewriter and a quiet space to bang out a manuscript while his family slept. If I did that, my husband would divorce me, I’m sure of it. I stuff my muse in my suitcase, along with all the stuff I’ll need to scribble ideas (small pad of paper and pen) or hammer out chapters (usually the tablet or spiral notepad).
The Bottom Line
Holidays are a great time to be together as a family, enjoy each other’s company, and unwind. I’m not much company sequestered in a room writing. However, being productive and enjoying time away with the fam is possible. Don’t have the funds or opportunity to travel? Download my mini-guide for writers: 10 Ways to Find Inspiration Without Leaving Home for FREE.