I was asked recently to write about the art of scheduling a vacation as a freelance writer. (Have to apologize that I can’t remember who asked me!) But it’s important to take breaks from the writing grind, especially in this new-media world where so many of us have daily blogging deadlines.
Personally, I’m supposed to post like 7-8 blogs a week for one business Web site client alone! So I know how hard it can be.
But writers can and should break away — and when I say vacation, I don’t mean the kind where you lug along your laptop and hole up in your hotel room while the rest of your family members swim with dolphins or hit the bike trails. The time spent away from your ordinary writing routine is critically important and can be transformative. For me, it’s my time to think about the big picture — where is my writing career going? Where do I want it to go?
The change in my mindset starts right away. Even as our car is pulling out of the driveway, I’m usually scribbling down new story ideas, thoughts about new markets to query, marketing techniques I haven’t tried…I come back with a whole fresh list of action items. It’s amazing the insights you can have when you’re not locked into your usual deadlines.
Here are my tips for creating a truly refreshing vacation:
1. Plan far in advance. Taking off for a week on no notice isn’t going to work. I rarely plan a vacation less than two months into the future.
2. Start notifying clients early. As soon as you know when you’ll be gone, start prepping your ongoing clients for the reality that they will not be able to contact you for a period of time. As in, “I’m going to be turning this piece in a few days early, as I’ll be gone starting on X date and I want to make sure you have a chance to ask any questions you might have before I go.” Or “This will be the last piece I can do until September, as I’ll be out the last couple weeks of August. I’ll pitch you some ideas before I leave and you can get back to me on them when I return.”
3. Work ahead. Unless you’re writing breaking news that must post the day the news breaks, you can work ahead on all your assignments. I’ve noticed some of my fellow Entrepreneur magazine Daily Dose bloggers writing and pre-scheduling posts up to three months ahead of when their blogs are due!
4. Save money. Unless you are a really good planner, it’s likely the month you vacation in will see an income drop. So on top of the vacation expense, try to sock some money away to cover that loss.
5. Set automatic notifications. Most email programs will allow you to auto-respond to messages to let folks know you won’t be responding right away. Make sure you turn those on and change your voicemail message before you go. I’ll often send a message to all my editors before I go to start them thinking about assigning me when I return, by letting them know when I’ll be back and how much open time I’ve got.
6. Really unplug. When you go on vacation, try your best to stay out of those Internet cafes. If you must, maybe take one hour at some point in the week to just clear out email. But otherwise, don’t just be physically away from your desk — remember to really let it go mentally and enjoy every precious moment of your vacation time.
Photo via Flickr user epSos.de