As important as it is to reduce distractions while writing, I've found that it's also key to get away and not write, sometimes. This weekend I spent long periods of time behind the wheel of my car, taking myself far away from my computer and notebook paper and flat, dry surfaces upon which to jot down some words. It's not the first time I've put myself on a writing vacation, and it won't be the last.
When I'm not actively writing, even when I'm trying not to, I find myself thinking about writing. If it's not the current work-in-progress, usually I'll spot some other mundane detail, a quirk of human behavior, that will spark my wondering "What if?" Sometimes I can integrate those musings into something I'm working on, but usually, they become new story ideas.
Just as it's important to read if one wants to write, one also has to get out once in a while. Left to my own devices, I'd live in my own head for weeks at a time and never talk to anyone. But getting out there and interacting with people reminds me of the rich tapestry of life I want my writing to depict. It helps me flesh out characters, helps me find character's voices, helps me find physical models for the people I want to put onto the page.
If I didn't get out and experience new things, I think my writing would stagnate quickly. Granted, I write mostly fantasy and UF, but even those need to be grounded in a world we can recognize. Without the reminder of physical details, I start setting all of my stories in empty white rooms, and my characters tend to stay cooped up leading uneventful lives.
I don't have to do anything artistically valid to enjoy positive effects from these small vacations, though. Symphonies are nice, and art galleries and nature hikes can be refreshing, but sometimes a walk to the grocery store can recharge my creativity just as well as a whole day spent staring at paintings. The crucial thing is to give myself permission to not write for those periods of time, and to enjoy myself.
I'm not advocating taking days off at a time, nor weeks, but I am saying that, if you're feeling drained, maybe it's time for a change in scenery. It certainly helps me to get away for a while, even when I'm not feeling less than inspired. It's just as important, though, to get back to writing before I've made a habit of staying away.
How about you? What was your last vacation from writing? Did it help?