Friday, July 07, 2006

Vacation--Mythbuster Style

I just turned in a manuscript that was overdue. My editor let me know she is going on vacation, so will not be able to read it for a while. No biggie. I just wanted it turned in, I knew it would have to fit in her schedule, and summer is prime vacation time. I'm stuck on the word vacation. I cheerfully wished my editor a happy vacation (because I'm not the begrudging sort...usually), but while I did so, I thought about the last time I took a real vacation (meaning no work, no how, no way). It was for my 25th anniversary, when my husband and I went--without children (who bring a whole new meaning to the work/vacation combo)-- to Jamaica (okay, so I wrote a short article...but that took under thirty minutes and I did it hanging in a hammock and drinking something with an umbrella in it).

I realized with dawning horror that I have thoughtlessly begun to tack the name vacation on to any extended trip away from home. I've taken eight vacations already this year--so why am I so tired and feel like I could use a good...vacation? Let's see: Going to a conference in New Orleans? Vacation. Driving 24 hours down to my father's memorial service, and 24 hours back, broken up by several days in hotels, brake failure, a blown tire, and three days at my mother-in-law's house? Vacation. Vacation. Vacation. A 36 hour drive--one way--for a family wedding? Vacation.

Accompanying me on vacation is not only my trusty VISA, but my ever present 'bag o'work': current manuscript on my Alpha Smart, check; manuscript to be revised--along with sticky flags and 3x5 cards, check; work in progress for my students, check. When my family sees me, no one asks if I brought work along, the question is how much.

Which brings me back to my editor. I hope that her vacation will be the kind I used to mean when I said vacation. (no work, no way, no how).

I also hope I take a real vacation sometime soon--and not the one I just told my husband I was taking next week that is going to include such fun and exciting events as cleaning the house from top to bottom, and catching up on the student work I'm behind on (I'm taking a vacation from sitting at the computer all day, trying to get revisions finished, but is that a real vacation?).

I have to wonder why, as a writer, I've become so lax with such an important word. I don't think I'm the only one (the only people I know who don't take work on vacation are those who don't have portable work). So, I'm here to officially spread the word--it's time to take vacation back, before we lose it all together. Those Europeans are smart folk, taking weeks to kick back and do nothing (even if the thought is inexplicably giving me a panic attack...excuse me a moment while I deep breathe at the mere thought of doing nothing but enjoy the beach).

Okay. Hyperventilation interlude over. I mean it. From now on, when I say I'm on vacation, I'm not taking along the bag o' work...stop laughing!


Patti O'Shea said...


I hear you! I haven't had a vacation from the day job that didn't involve meeting a deadline or a writer's conference since January 2002, when I sold my first book. I'm working on building some "Me Time" into my schedule--even if it's only a few hours to watch a movie each week.


JoAnn Ross said...

Raising my hand here to say that I, too, can so identify! It recently crossed my mind that I hadn't had a day without some sort of writing related work since we returned from Italy three weeks after 9/11. Even whenever I tried to escape to our beach place in S.C., I was still writing every day and have never been down there that the Fedex or Airborne guy didn't show up at my door with a c.e. ms or page proofs which needed to be proofed. Always, it seemed, yesterday.

There was one three-week period down there during crash schedule revisions, where, although the beach was only a few short feet away, I only took time out to walk on it twice. I did, however, look up from my laptop every so often and watched as everyone else -- including my doggies and dh -- seemed to be having a dandy time.

Which is why we just gave up and sold it last month. I feel somewhat guilty about this because I'm the one who talked my husband into way early retirement 8 yrs (!) ago so we'd have more time to play.

We're going to Ireland this fall for nearly 3 weeks and I've informed my editor and agent that I won't be available for any reason. Even though I should have a contract under negotiation during that time, so, here's a surprise, everyone involved is just going to have to wait on me for a change. LOL

I'm planning to sit outside our cottage overlooking Inch Beach (the Ryan's Daughter one), catch up on my pleasure reading, drink Guinness and take morning and sunset walks hand in hand on the beach with my sweetie. And hey, put some romance back into my own life (instead of living vicariously through my characters), which should be way cool.

And I'm not even going to THINK about anything to do with my career. Because I have this feeling it'll still be back here waiting (and lurking), as it has for the past 23 years. And counting.

Shanna Swendson said...

Oh, I can so relate! I used to secretly mock the workaholics I worked with in the days when I had a day job. I felt so superior because I had a life away from work (even if that "life" was writing). But now I've realized I've become the same thing. I have few hobbies and interests that don't in some way relate to my writing career, and I can't remember the last vacation I took that had absolutely nothing to do with writing, aside from one quick trip to visit an out-of-town friend.

I've got a book due September 15, and I'm already daydreaming of renting a cabin by a lake for a few days in October and doing nothing but taking walks, canoeing and reading. I guess the reading makes it vaguely work-related, but I want it to be guilt-free reading, not reading to study the market or "I really should be working now" reading.

JoAnn Ross said...

Okay, I just finished watching Dirty Jobs on cable. I think Discovery. Anyway, I saw a man who was down in this dark coke processing plant who'd been shoveling coal dust for 30 (!!!!) years and figured he'd be doing it until his two sons -- ages 12 & 15, I think he said -- graduate college.

Then we moved to a woman with three little kids in WA state who'd been shucking thousands of oysters a day (at fifty cents per pound) for 18 (!!!) years.

Wow, did that strike home are relative things are. I'll undoubtedly bitch about the pressures of writing again. However, I'm really going to at least try to remember these people whenever I'm tempted to whine and remind myself how fortunate I am.

Gail Dayton said...

My dh is one of those people who likes to be Doing Things, even when he's on vacation. He does vacation-y things, like touring museums or going whitewater rafting or whatever, but he's not real good at goofing off.

I like to Do Things as well, but I also like to sit around and watch the birds or work jigsaw puzzles or read. My parents have a place in Colorado which is great for relaxing visits--because the family gathers there and the only constructive things we do have to do with eating--which is fun, right? My brother and sisters and parents--whoever's visiting take turns with the cooking, and we make the kids clean up... We haven't gone there enough lately, but we're talking about heading up in September or October. Ought to be nice.

Nancy Morse said...

Vacation? You mean there's actually such a word in the English language? Hmmm,I'll have to look that one up and see what it means.

JoAnn Ross said...

Nancy -- There is, indeed, such a word, but actually, I much prefer the English "Holiday." It sounds ever so much more festive. And even though all my Irish ancestors are undoubtedly spinning in their graves, I have to admit there are some things the British do right. Like holidays and calling their parking lots "car parks", which always sounds, as least to me, as if I'm leaving my car to play with the other cars in their own special fun park while I go shopping. LOL

Nancy Morse said...

You're right, JoAnn, "Holiday" sounds like something I might actually enjoy. Now, if only I could grasp the concept of taking time off. And if I can't find the time for myself, maybe I'll send my Mazda off to the car park. The little angel has been so good she deserves to have some fun with the other autos. Who knows? Maybe she'll meet a big, strong, handsome, alpha-type SUV and drive off down that happy highway of love. Of course, he'd have to like older women because my darling 626 is a 1990. But she's a looker and has lots of life left in her.

Cheryl Bolen said...

A pity there's little in the way of a happy medium in this biz. Those of you who have posted before me have a problem a lot of us would like to have: a proliferation of deadlines. I know JoAnn for one works all the time. (I know this because she seems to post to the PASIC loop daily; therefore, she's always in front of that darn computer.)
There are others of us who would like to have such a problem. Since I sold my first book in 1997, I've had three different years when I did not have a book out, and 2007 will be the fourth. It's not been a case that I didn't have tons of proposals out there. I did. It's just that so much is out of the author's hands in this business.
One of my local chapter mates sold her first book to Harlequin last August and has just now been told her pub date. It will take more than two years from sale to publication for her. It's tough to build a career in a situation like that.
But I can truly feel for you workaholics. I've had a couple of years where I had to work seven days a week in order to meet deadlines, and that's rough.
Best case scenerio is to have several weeks after turning in a book to catch up on life -- and those closets that need to be cleaned. (Unless you live on a boat like Sandra.)
I bet an old veteran like JoAnn must have some advice on how to build in some time for living....(though I don't think she follows it).