I've just returned from two weeks in Portugal and England. The former to visit a country new to me, the latter to visit a friend and continue my love affair with England. I'd love to live there. (If you want to offer me a job or marry me so I can have a visa, get in touch.)
I realized, as I was trudging up a mountain road to see another ruin of a castle and a convent (these seem to go together in Portugal and no complaints, very efficient) in about 95 degree heat, that I would never even leave the house on a day like that, let alone sweat twice my body weight to do anything.
You become someone else on vacation. Someone who can navigate foreign transportation systems. Someone who gets up early. Someone who eats strange food. Someone who talks to strangers, and attempts a different language. Someone who hikes up and down mountain roads all day in high heat. You become a foreigner in your own life, which gives you perspective on everything.
For example: I realized I don't give a shit about my last novel that I'd been editing and re-editing to possibly hand off to a well known editor to read. It's either good enough for her to work with now or it isn't. If it isn't, c'est la guerre. Back to the one I just finished that I really care about. So liberating!
Hiking up this mountain, practically hallucinating (yes, I drank lots of water, bottles and bottles, but heat still bakes the brain), I thought about how we could and should all do this with our writing. It's good to have a favorite place to write, but also good to get out of that comfort zone. And I don't mean just nip down to the coffee shop. Nor do I mean paying thousands of dollars and forcing your way through thousands of tourists to do this.
How can you give yourself this perspective now, where you live? Can you drive an hour or two to a garden or park or museum or mountain, or cross a state line to another little town and write there?
Can you go on a writing retreat for a weekend? A conference where you will actually write? (Many of them are about publishing, with not enough craft and it's too easy to get caught up in networking, so choose carefully.) Can you borrow a friend's cabin or beach house or condo for one night?
Not just for writing but thinking about your writing. Where are you? Where do you want to go? What's working? What do you need to let go of? What hard truths do you need to tell yourself?
It's both a relief and a hardship to come back from vacation. No more running for trains and metros and buses and planes, thank goodness. Or repacking the suitcase AGAIN. But a bit depressing to take up the mantle of the old life. I always think, surely it morphed into something better while I was gone? But I enjoy the week or so after I return where I can see my life and all its parts/aspects/expressions/flaws more clearly and objectively and make shifts where I can.
So be a bit of a tourist. Go somewhere close or far to be the person you wouldn't be at home and look back on your writing from there. On your old, current, and writing to-be. Pretend you're on a mountain with everything spread out before you and the wind rocking you on your feet and whipping in your ears so you can't hear the critic in your head, only look.
Remember the sunscreen and water, though, or your mother will never forgive me for sending you out there.
(Picture: mine, taken at the top of one of the battlements of the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle), Sintra, Portugal.)