by J.D. Rhoades
I’ve gotta tell you, folks, I am on my last nerve. The day job’s been an absolute bear, I’ve been pushing to get the fourth novel finished (first draft’s wound up and the hard slog of rereading and rewriting has begun), I’m trying to get promotional stuff together for the paperback release of GOOD DAY IN HELL and the impending release of SAFE AND SOUND, the newspaper column’s always there demanding that I be all topical and witty once a week, and I’m not even going to bring up personal drama.
Frankly, the only thing that’s keeping me from going up the nearest bell tower with a high powered rifle is the prospect of vacation coming up: a week in a beach house at North Carolina’s fabulous Oak Island, just me and the fambly, sleeping late, lying on the sand soaking up rays, bobbing about aimlessly in the waves for hours, chowing down on seafood every night, and generally not giving a rat’s hindquarters about anything. Oh, and reading. Can’t forget that. I’m already stuffing the paperbacks into the beach bag, the more fluffy and mindless the better.
I’m jonesing, friends. I’m jonesing real bad for the smell of salt water and the feel of sand between my toes. I find my attention drifting away during the day, distracted by mental images of moonlight rippling on the surface of the ocean. I’m really looking forward to getting away from it all.
Which leads to the question: what is “it all?” See, I’m seriously thinking this year of leaving the trusty laptop at home, and doing the unthinkable: not writing for a week. The past few years, I’ve taken the Beach Week as an opportunity to put in some work on the latest project. In fact, the first few chapters of THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND came together during a Beach Week, when I pulled together a few fragments I had floating around and combined them with an idea I’d had on the drive down. Big chunks of both GOOD DAY IN HELL and SAFE AND SOUND were written during Beach Weeks, when I hauled the laptop out on the deck (or into an unused bedroom) and hammered away at the keyboard during the hours when it was just too damn hot to be out on the sand. But now, time and tide have some together in such a way that, while I have a deadline coming up, if I push a little in the next few wees, I’ll actually be ahead of schedule and not sweating it. So this year, I’m thinking of just vegging out all week. Maybe using that time indoors for, I dunno, a nap. Or another game of Apples to Apples.
And I feel guilty.
I mean, shouldn’t I welcome the extra time to write? Doesn’t being a professional writer mean loving it so much that you jump at every opportunity to put the words down on paper? Doesn’t the feeling that it might be a good idea to take week off mean I lack the proper dedication for this? And can we Southern Protestants give the Catholics a run for their money when it comes to tormenting ourselves with guilt, or what?
I know what I’ll probably end up doing. I’ll take the notebook at least. And I’ll write. Because I don’t know how to stop.
How about you, fellow writers? Do you take vacations at all? And when you do, do you spend any or all of the time writing or scribbling, or whatever it is you do to get the words and images out of your head and onto the page? Is it possible, or even desirable, to shut it off for a week?