Gonna Take Two Weeks, Gonna Have a Fine Vacation


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?

18 thoughts on “Gonna Take Two Weeks, Gonna Have a Fine Vacation

  1. Karen Olson

    I never take the laptop on vacation. I bring a lot of books I can’t get to otherwise, and I read read read. And I hang with my family. We’re heading up to Montreal and Quebec this summer, and after the hell of writing this fourth book, I just can’t wait!!

  2. Lori G. Armstrong

    As much as I love to write, as much as it’s a part of who I am, I’m a strong advocate for needing a break from it. My thoughts are, if my husband, who works like 60+ hours a week, can leave his job for a few days or a week, then I can too. I *owe* it to him, myself, and our family.

    I don’t take the laptop on vacation either (mine is ancient, no internet access, which actually forces me to write on the damn thing, rather than obsessively check email, blogs, etc.) That said, I do bring a notebook. But I always have a notebook in my purse.

    You work hard, Dusty. This is your family time. Revel in it. Hang out, rejuvenate, reconnect. You owe it to *yourself* not to feel guilty. Catch up on your reading, eat great food, laugh a lot, laze on the beach and do nothing. I think you’ll be surprised how much you A) enjoy yourself without pressure, B) when the week winds down, you’ll look forward to getting back to your WIP with fresh eyes (Stephen King advocates letting a first draft “age” for a minimum of two weeks, and I’ve found it works amazingly well)

    The Rhoades kids are roughly the same age as the Armstrong kids. If you’ve got them as a captive audience, none of their friends around, no internet – I know they can’t live without their damn cell phones – they will want to spend time with you. They will seek you out. Be there for them.

    And we both know they’ll be gone before you know it and then you’ll have all the time in the world to write…and you’ll still feel guilty. Go bohemian, dude. Surf’s up, have sand between your toes, not between your laptop keys.

  3. Ali

    ctrl+alt+delete Dusty –

    Leave the laptop at home, recharge with the family, observe the world, support your family and read a few books.

    Life is short, enjoy each day and as you spend so much time writing and working away from the family – the break from writing with make you fresher and re-energised for your return.



  4. Naomi

    I’ve had long stretches of not writing. I think if you’re feeling weary, it’s a sign that your batteries need to be recharged.

    On a personal note, I want to hear about the beaches, etc. in North Carolina. My husband and I were headed for NC in May for vacation and then we both got hit with this terrible cough. Hope to reschedule later this year. (We’re actually making a basketball pilgrimage, but I want to hear about the pretty spots in the state, too.)

  5. Louise Ure

    I’m having just such a vacation right now, Dusty. (But of course, I had to stop into a Kinko’s to check in on you guys.)

    No writing. Some reading. Mostly just spending time with aged mother and enjoying the light in her eyes.

    Here’s to vacations!

  6. David Terrenoire

    Had a great time last night. Both with you guys and after, playing blues until one this morning.

    As for the vacation, as I said, I have to finish this book before I take time off, otherwise I’ll just write and not enjoy the down time.

    My point: Enjoy the down time. Take everyone’s advice and recharge.

    Lucky bastard.

  7. Laura

    Dusty, my friend, just chill out.

    Admittedly, this is from someone who a) took a laptop on a three-week family vacation to Ireland and Scotland (finished that sucker in Edinburgh, too) and b) just took the laptop to a family bar mitzvah, where the West Coast time difference meant that I was up at 6 a.m. and very happy to squirrel away in Starbucks for a couple of hours and c) will take my laptop to the beach when I visit my folks.

    But — I don’t have a day job and I take almost a month off from writing every year. So it all evens out.

  8. Stacey Cochran

    Great event last night at Cameron Village, Dusty, and an excellent answer to my question about character. It was actually very inspiring to hear your answer.

    Regarding overwork and vacation, I would just take a break, man.

    It might not hurt to bring the laptop, but I’d only use it in case of emergency. 🙂


  9. simon

    I think we’re in the same boat at the moment, JD. All I see is work and more work at the moment. I don’t usually take my work with me on vacations, but at the moment I am. My plan is to take December off.

  10. Sean Chercover

    I agree with, well, everybody. Take a week off and enjoy the sun and sand and family, Dusty.

    Gawd, you’ve earned it in spades. And whenever you start feeling guilty, it’s time for a rum punch.

  11. JT Ellison

    I managed two weeks without writing, and it was lovely. But I’ll admit, I did get a grumpy a few times when I had a great idea and didn’t have instant access to the laptop.

    Take the laptop, but leave the power cord at home. That way you’ll force yourself to be judicious, and spend more time with the family and with the books.

  12. JDRhoades

    It’s a sign of just how screwed up I am that the only post i found myself nodding in agreement to was Duane’s.

    But I think I’ll take the advice of the other ones. JT’s idea is particularly clever.

    Great seeing you, too, David. And Stacey, where the hell did you go? We were hoping to see you for drinks after.

  13. billie

    My plan is to take *writing* vacations AND *regular* vacations. 🙂

    What the heck was going on in Cameron Village? I was two blocks from there and finished clients early last night!

  14. Mike MacLean

    I agree with JT’s advice about the laptop. It’s your vacation. If you WANT to write–not need but WANT–then I say go ahead and write. As long as you’re not neglecting your personal life in the process, what’s the harm? If you don’t feel the desire to write, you should go ahead and enjoy your vacation, guilt free (Yeah right, but you can at least try). It sounds like you’ve earned some time off.

    Have fun. Get some sun. Have a girly drink.

  15. Fran

    I suspect you’ll stress if you DON’T have your laptop, but don’t let it rule your vacation. That’s my two measley cents.

    I figure we all need a break sometimes, and there’s no reason to feel guilty about taking one. A big part of my job is to read mysteries, to review them, to be conversant, and I love it!

    But…once in a while…I can’t. I just can’t. So I read something else, like spiffy science fiction. In fact, I just did! Do I feel guilty? Yeah, a little. Like eating cookies while on a diet. And I know darned good and well I’m gonna do it again! But I come back sharper and happier for having done it.

    So feel deliciously, wickedly decadent about not writing, Dusty! Look at your laptop and laugh at it. (But keep it there for just-in-case!)


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