Don’t underestimate the power of a good vacation. I just got back from one and the mental break was as beneficial as the extra physical activity I did while I was gone.
It’s hard for freelancers to get away. When we don’t work, money doesn’t come in. It’s especially hard to turn down projects in order to take a break at a time when magazines and newspapers are cutting back on freelance work and what they want to pay for the work they buy.
But it’s important to take a break, even if it’s to sit in a lounge chair in your backyard and flip through magazines and soak up the sun, or do those things around town that you’ve never gotten around to doing. Here’s why vacations are important:
1. You need to recharge your batteries. Weekends are wonderful, but every once in a while you need more than two days to rest up from the constant treadmill of pitching, interviews, writing and rewriting.
2. In the thick of work, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. This thought occurred to me as I was literally walking through a forest, staring up at the Douglas firs and cedars in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of a daily routine and ignore the big picture of where your writing business is headed. Stepping away from it all for a bit can give you time to examine how satisfied you are with where your writing business is headed, and brainstorm ideas for moving it in new directions.
3. Experiencing new places, meeting new people and trying new things can generate ideas for stories. I’m not talking about travel pieces here. Different surroundings can sometimes have that “aha” effect on your brain that helps you come up with new ideas or inspirations, like Jonah Lehrer wrote about in his recent article in The New Yorker, The Eureka Hunt.
4. The big project/phone call/email you’ve been waiting for will arrive the minute you leave town. Call it Murphy’s law of freelancing. Inevitably, the week you’re away is the week you’ll be most popular with the editors you’ve been hounding forever. This happened to me – despite all of the precautions I took ahead of time to alert everyone I write for I’d be gone. The editor on the story I handed in weeks ago will finally emailed to say he liked it and wanted to run it on his Website ASAP, was I available for a couple quick questions? In situations like this, you have to decide how out of touch you want to stay. Is it worth it to answer a couple emails, or can things wait until you’re back in the office.
5. The people in your life are pretty cool – they deserve your undivided attention. We working parents are jugglers, constantly balancing jobs with taking care of kids, the house, the pets, groceries, sports practices, etc. So for one week it’s great to forget the juggle and concentrate on what’s really important, the people who make everything else we do worthwhile.