Writing on Vacation: More Progress Than in a Month at Home

by | Writing | 9 comments


One son’s family.

Prepare, Escape, Progress


I didn’t believe it would work, but it did.


It was hellish. I’d be gone twelve days on vacation. Blog posts still needed to be written and published. I had endorsements to garner for my nonfiction book on writing. Another publisher required I fill out four work-intensive forms on their system. I had interview questions to answer.

I didn’t write one word on my story the week before we left for the Dominican Republic. That week, as I worked hard to get tasks done in advance, I made myself a promise, one I wasn’t sure I could keep. I told myself I’d have fun writing my story while sipping a virgin lime concoction and lounging on the beach under palms swaying in the Punta Cana breezes.


Once the airplane lifted off a Charlotte, NC runway, my muscles relaxed. I opened my MacBook Air, and I was no longer on the stuffy airplane but in my fictional town, falling in love with my hero and enjoying the cleverness of my heroine.

We arrived in Punta Cana at a resort we enjoy. Just as I remembered, the breezes chased away heat and humidity, the bright sunshine danced on aqua water, and fronds on tall palms provided shade. We spent the rest of the travel day orienting our children and grandchildren to the resort. We’d invited them along for the first six days. Then we lavished our tummies on the endless offerings the main restaurant laid out in numerous buffets. No meals to plan, shop for, or prepare.


I spent time with my family, snorkeling, sailing on a small catamaran with my husband, and building sand castles with the kids. But while they enjoyed the sun at the pool and my husband windsurfed, I crept away to my favorite beach spot, where my fingers translated the images in my mind into words on my MacBook Air.


It was almost heaven. When I needed to mull over a scene, I closed the laptop and looked at water, sand, and palms, instead of the piles of papers from ten different marketing projects on my desk, table, and floor, those annoying stacks that always made me feel anxious. In our room for an hour before breakfast and another before turning out the lights, I inserted all the cool edits that rose in my uncluttered mind during the night or day.

This most enjoyable time away taught me how important vacations or retreats are. Time away from all the tasks that are not writing and from our homes and their problems can unleash creativity. (Our freezer died and the hot water heater started leaking right before we left.)

The place doesn’t have to be ten days on a tropical island. It could be a

         week in a cabin by the river,

                  weekend in a motel with a view,

                           day in a national forest,

                                    housesitting someone’s house, or

                                             camping at a lake.

Writing on vacation can be fun and highly productive. Click to tweet.

When have you been away from home and enjoyed a productive writing session?

Buy Link

Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond, Virginia. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, star football player and prom king Trigg Alderman, is in Twisty Creek visiting his grandmother who lives next door to Candace’s family home. He doesn’t recognize her at first and remembers little about her. He’s not alone. Candace’s rekindled attraction to Trigg adds unexpected complications to finding her passions. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!


Newsletter Signup

Please subscribe to my newsletter, Zoe’s Zigzags, and receive a free short story.”

Author Zoe M. McCarthy Newsletter Signup

Follow Blog Via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,836 other subscribers
-809Days -10Hours -44Mins -28Secs

American Christian Fiction Writers

American Christian Fiction Writers

You may also like


  1. Emily Conrad

    I get sick if I read in the car, and our biggest vacations tend to be road trips. However, I’ve found I can write in the car because so much of my “process” involves staring out the window that I don’t get sick 😉 I’ve made great progress that way while on vacation!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Emily, thanks for sharing your story. You made me think of a similar way I work on stories. Everything I drive to around her is at least 30 minutes away. I do a lot of brainstorming on my books during those drives. It makes the trip go faster too.

  2. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D

    Hi Zoe:
    Thanks for the reminder that vacations don’t have to be without productivity. I use my treadmill time to think about what will happen next and then jot down notes if I don’t have time to sit at the computer. By the time I have time to write, I have most of the scene written in my mind and can move forward pretty rapidly on translating it into words on the page.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Sheri, thanks for giving us another example of how we can use time where our brains don’t have to think to work on our stories.

      • Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D

        You’re welcome, Zoe, I hope it helps others realize there’s hidden time everywhere. Like waiting in line at the bank, or blow drying your hair, or fill in the blank with something else. It was how I studied for my qualifying exams. By using treadmill time and “getting ready for the day time,” I had an extra 90 minutes a day to study.

  3. Tanya Stowe

    Zoe, what a timely article. I’m struggling with this right now because I’m a full-time RV’er. I’m always on vacation! Accomplishing my writing tasks has become a real issue. I’ve having to step back an reevaluate. I’ve been working non-stop in all of our locations and missing the beauty around me. Time to stop and take stock and find out what’s really important. I need that down time too!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Tanya, I’m glad this was timely for you. I agree that we need to have some completely down time. If we think writing the story is fun (not the blogging, social media obligations, and prep for a book coming out) then writing can be like going to the movies for us. But we still need to get away and “snorkel” too. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Bonnie Winters

    Zoe, You wrote:
    “Time away from all the tasks that are not writing and from our homes and their problems can unleash creativity.”
    This is so true!

    One day Dan and I will get to retire to our little mobile home cottage at our denomination’s Christian Retreat Center, but until we do, we love going there for a few days away whenever we can.I always go with the intent of trying to write. Even if that doesn’t happen, it always helps me return to “real life” refreshed and rejuvenated.

    We just got back from there this afternoon and what a blessed time we had. It was Family Camp week, filled with many activities, good speakers and wonderful services, along with lots of good friends to see. I participated in some of the activities and the evening services, going early to visit with friends there. But my mornings i reserved to write. I sat in my favorite room which is decorated in a beach theme with the air conditioner on and fell in love with my story all over again.

    Several times during the retreat, God dropped little nuggets into my heart through things the speakers and musicians shared that inspired something in the scene I was working on. One song was about “God took me out of Egypt, now he’s taking Egypt out of me.” I’m sure they had no idea I was writing a book about the Israelite’s wilderness journey after leaving the slavery of Egypt! LOL!

    Being on the receiving end of ministry rather than the doing end of things makes a big difference. Just the atmosphere on the campground – the tangible sense of God’s Spirit there – makes it so much easier to hear God’s voice and direction for the story. In the 4 days we were there, I got a chapter and a half done which can take much longer with all the interruptions at home in a busy church setting.

    I love it that you had such a wonderful (and productive) time on vacation! Hugs!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Bonnie, I love how God drops ideas into my mind when I have quieted for the night. I think that’s why vacations and retreats are so valuable. Our minds have quieted, or as I said, are away from home and work bombardments, and we’re more receptive to ideas. I felt your excitement in working on your story. It sounded like it was a treat, not a burden to fit in among all the normal tasks. Thanks for sharing you story. Hugs back to you.

Pin It on Pinterest