Coach Marla Beck

Should I Take My Computer on Vacation?

by Marla

in brilliant creativity, brilliant mindset

Are you traveling over the holidays? Wondering if you should try to write or not over your break?

Ask the Writing Coach: Should I Take My Computer on Vacation?”


Catherine, a freelance writer, asks, “I leave town for two weeks tomorrow and I’m debating:  should I pack the laptop?  How do I decide if I should take my computer on vacation?”

You’re not alone, Catherine. Many writers have asked me this same question, most of them expecting to hear a clear directive:

“Of course not!  Leave the computer at home.”

Alas, it’s not so simple. There’s no one-size-fits-all “take the computer or not” answer for everyone. As you decide what’s right for you, today I offer you a few case studies to consider– real-life examples from my coaching practice.

Just Say No.  (Ronnie’s Opportunity)

Meet Ronnie.

In the past two months, Ronnie’s made major strides in creating clear boundaries between his freelancing work and his personal life. He says he’s much happier and energized about his work these days. He feels like he has more control over his time, too.  When Ronnie’s working, he’s really working.   When he’s not, he’s completely off-duty — no laptop in sight.  Ronnie reports that his partner really appreciates his newfound ability to be more present when he’s at home, and he loves the newfound peace-of-mind he’s found.

But Ronnie’s vacation last month posed an interesting opportunity: would he stick to his new habits and dare to be truly offline while vacationing…for an entire week?  Or would he tuck his laptop in his luggage, just to check in?

I challenged Ronnie to honor his own time boundaries. I dared him to leave the computer at home.

Choosing a computer-free vacation required Ronnie to work a bit harder before he left town. His decision also required Ronnie to act on faith.  He had to trust that he’d “done enough” before leaving town.  He had to trust that new assignments and opportunities would be readily available to him once he returned.

When Ronnie returned to his writing desk a week later, he was slightly more tanned and chock full of new story ideas. “I left my computer behind…I did it!” he told me during our next coaching call.  He sounded pleased.

Ronnie left his work at home, and by traveling laptop-free, he’d taken a courageous stand to respect his own time and boundaries.

“I wouldn’t have done it any other way,” he said.

Don’t Leave Home Without It. (Kelly’s Opportunity)

Kelly’s situation was a bit different.  A writer and busy mom, she used our coaching structure to help her create the extra time she needed to develop a long-term book project. She gained momentum quickly and loved her work.  Until late May, that is.  Earlier this year, the end-of-school hustle derailed her writing progress for an entire three weeks.

A few weeks after the school year ended, Kelly readied her family for a two-week vacation. “I should leave the laptop at home, right?  And not work on the book?” she asked.  She seemed hesitant.  A tiny bit guilty.

Kelly was working on a personal writing project she loved.  In her case, traveling with some of her research and her laptop was an act of self-care.  It took courage for her to admit that, “for me, writing is ‘resting.’  I’m a writer and I love my work!”   But she did it.

Kelly returned from her vacation quite pleased.  She packed her laptop and didn’t work on the book every day — she wasn’t expecting herself to in the first place.  She did manage to move her project forward though, and by investing just a few joyful and productive hours in her project, she regained much of the momentum she’d lost at the end of the school year.  Better yet, she felt great!

If you’re like Kelly, I encourage you to own your own version of what it means to rest and relax.  Don’t just blindly accept society’s definitions.  If you find that working on your independent writing project is restorative and joyful, go for it.  Pack your laptop and enjoy some no-pressure writing sessions.

Allow yourself to be true to you, regardless of how aligned you are with others’ expectations of you.

Keep It Simple. (Melissa’s Opportunity)

This week Melissa, a hard-working freelancer in the midst of an exciting career breakthrough, mentioned her well-deserved vacation during our call.  “We leave tomorrow morning,” she said, “and I’m trying to decide if I need to take the laptop…”

“Here we go,” I thought.

Remember how, in Ronnie’s case, saying no was an act of courage and integrity?

Remember how, in Kelly’s case, saying yes was an act of courage and integrity?

Well, Melissa’s case was a bit different. Melissa’s decision wasn’t about taking a stand or owning her true nature. She just needed to think through a few logistics: did she really need her laptop?

After thinking things through carefully, Melissa realized that she needed access to much less info than she’d first thought. If the art department called her cellphone with a truly urgent caption question (her worst-case scenario), she realized she needed to be able to access her Dropbox, not her entire hard drive.

She planned to upload a few documents to the cloud this afternoon.

When she boards the plane tomorrow, Melissa will be travelling light:  no laptop.  No paperwork. No anxiety.  She’s well-prepared to respond, if needed.

What’ll It Be?  (Here’s Your Opportunity)

So…what’ll it be?  Did you relate to any of these writers?

As you pack your bags and decide for yourself whether the laptop stays or goes, I hope you’ll also take a moment to make this simple decision: “I’m going to have a great trip.”

Tuck a clear intention in your pocket and do everything you can to leave town feeling happy and relaxed.

Laptop or not, I hope you enjoy your vacation, Catherine.  If you write for a living, I’ve no doubt that you deserve it!

With love from your coach,



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