Thursday, 11 May 2017

Can Writers Take Holidays? - Misha Herwin


Holidays begin with lists. First there are the things that must be done, the travel arrangements, booking hotels and flights and making sure that passports are in date. Then all the domestic stuff, who is going to look after the cat, water the garden, collect the post etc. Finally, what has to be bought, sun cream, new swimwear and books.
     When it’s time to pack there are other decisions to be made, which clothes and shoes to take and which to leave behind. At which point the laptop/notebook question has to be addressed.
     Is this going to be a holiday with, or without? Am I going to take my work with me and have a holiday like any normal person?
     On a practical level, this means that my hand luggage will be lighter and there will be no tangles of wires to wrestle with at check in when, inevitably, after passing through the x-ray machine, mine is the case which is selected to be unpacked. Even though I know I am not carrying anything forbidden, this is always disconcerting. There is hardly any space to unload my possessions, the officials are grim faced, there are other passengers waiting for their turn and my husband seems to have disappeared with the travel documents, tickets and boarding passes. Added to which, in all such circumstances, there is a residual fear that perhaps I have got it wrong and that what I thought was an innocent piece of equipment is about to be impounded, an unease which is not without foundation since some airlines have recently decided that Kindles are a security threat and have banned their use in passenger cabins.
     On the other hand there is an element of the comfort blanket about my little HP Notebook. What if I have a brilliant idea for a story while I am away? If I have it with me, then I can get down to work straight away and if I am in the middle of something, or have put a book aside for a while, then if I need to I can do some editing, or a little tweaking.
     “Need to.” This is the significant phrase. Part of me is afraid to let go, to stop writing in case the flow dries up, or I finally realize that life without writing is simpler and easier and if that were to happen then everything I have been striving for over the past decades will have come to nothing.
Setting aside the fear, there is another fact that has to be taken into consideration. Being somewhere new and unfamiliar frees the mind and stimulates the imagination. Removing the element of compulsion whether to meet a publishing deadline, or a self-imposed one, can also be very liberating. And sometimes you just need a rest, time to stand and stare, take in your surroundings, talk and listen, eat and drink and experience. All things that will later go on to feed into your writing, in ways that are not yet obvious.
     So will the Notebook come with me? Even if I decide this year that it will stay at home I will have a paper notebook and pen in my bag, as I always do, ready to scribble down anything that comes into my mind, because I don’t believe that writers can take holidays. Some like Anthony Horowitz write every day of their lives even if they are on some exotic beach, others like me can take the odd day off from physical writing, but it is all still going on in my head.
     Jan Edwards and I try to meet up once a week for a working coffee. We drink and discuss our various WIPS, offer help with problems and make suggestions about marketing. From time to time, however, one of us will stop, turn her head very slightly and listen to a snippet of not to be missed conversation on the next table, or our eyes will follow a newly arrived group at the counter, instinctively trying to work how they relate to each other and if there is any story there.
     We’re not being rude, I hope, or overly nosy, we are just being writers, drinking in our surroundings and processing what we hear and see, all of which will eventually, in some way or another find itself into our books and stories.

Which I suppose answers my initial question. Writers can’t have holidays, even without laptops or tablets we are still, on some subliminal level, forever writing.  

3 comments:

JO said...

I'm a travel writer - lucky me - so I don't make the distinction between work and holidays. Having said that, I never have anything other than a small notebook and pen with me when I'm out and about - I want to immerse myself in experience and then write it up as best I can when I get back to my room. (I can also end up in places without electricity so it's essential that I can be separated from technology without feeling bereft!)

griseldaheppel said...

Well I think I'd be tempted to lie on that beach reading Georgette Heyer and drinking cocktails, with the occasional wafting into the warm blue sea....

Having said that, I often find I write more easily on holiday, if we're staying in one place, because the usual interruptions and worrying about family members happen far less. It's wonderful to be sure of a few quiet hours every day. But I'm all for letting it all go and using the time to relax and sight see instead without feeling guilty about not writing. Life's too short.

Jan Edwards said...

Hope you had everything you needed!