Last month I escaped from my house to Costa Rica and spent a couple of weeks hiding in a sunny place with my novel manuscript. As a writing sabbatical goes, the time was short. As vacations go, I was bringing a big chunk of work to digest. I came home extremely satisfied on both counts.
I started every day with a cup of coffee and my pages and set to work. I am in the story editing/re-writing of massive chunks phase, so I worked by hand—pen on printed page, combined with re-writing by hand on the backs of rejected pages and a few borrowed fresh ones. In the afternoon I changed into my bathing suit, walked down the block to the beach, and swam in the Pacific. Some days I took the manuscript with me to the beach and spent a few hours working seaside at an outdoor cafe, sipping some kind of drink served in a coconut, my feet dug into the sand. Does this sound non-productive? Not at all! I plowed through three-quarters of the novel by the time I returned home.
Last year I took time off to write at home, mid-winter, and failed. I did write, but I suffered from the double yoke of winter blues and lazy distraction. This year I decided to go for sunshine, and came home at the end of it happy and accomplished.
I think that forcing myself to completely relax while writing made a phenomenal difference to my focus.
I returned to work the day after my escape, and am back to my narrow margins of writing time. I am forgiving myself some down time, as this has been a tough year, with trying to find a new place to live, and saying goodbye to several loved ones. The boyfriend needs some attention, too. We are already talking about where to sabbatical next year. One last reflection to bear in mind—make sure the boyfriend brings enough to do to keep himself busy during writing hours!