So, About That Vacay
In my last letter, I told you I was going on my first vacation in thirteen years. Guess what happened right before we had to leave?
I got sick. Like, lying facedown in bed, whimpering for my mama sick. In fleeting moments of consciousness, I thought about things like trip insurance, and whether it’d be another thirteen years before I took a vacay.
I woke up the next day in that state where you can at least imagine wellness. We got to go to the Dominican Republic. And in addition to having a fabulous time, I learned that vacay is a lens through which to view real life, especially the writing life. Here are a few reasons why:
Sometimes the Road is Long and Bumpy
We rented a car to drive from Santo Domingo to an eco-resort.
The 100 mile trip took over four hours because the roads had potholes measured in depths of feet, not inches. As we crawled along, avoiding donkeys and the edges of cliffs, we wondered if our destination could possibly be worth it.
Look at me! Not the cow--the person sliding into the natural rock pool in the GIF above. It was flipping scary! And awesome! Worth it? Heck, yeah.
When we got back home, I had a chat with my editor and agent, and we decided that my next book, Twelve Miles from Mercy, will come out in spring 2020. It feels like a long ways away. Will I even be remembered as an author by then? Will money get tight? Worries started to drag at my heels like swamp grass.
Then I remembered our drive. The road to my career as an author has been rough going back as far as my days of querying (you can read why on Daniella Levy's Rejection Survival Guide). But if it winds up at a place like Paraiso, drinking fragrant juices, and wafted by cool breezes, well, then, all the potholes, jouncing, and fear will have been worth it.
Unproductive Time is Crucial
Some of my favorite memories from vacation were the ones where I just sat in the glorious tropical garden with Tim Johnston’s new novel beside me, not reading (even though the book is great), not swimming in the pool, not even sun-bathing. Just watching a lizard. Back home, I am always either doing something, or thinking about what needs to be done. In his article on work, Maarten van Doorn touches on the topic of how useful downtime is. On vacay it wasn’t that I put everything down, it was that there was nothing to pick up. And it was bliss.
As writers, our books benefit from being sent on holiday too. Some of our best ideas come when we are driving, or in the shower, or basically not thinking about the book. I’d suggest going one step further—taking some utterly unplugged, not task directed time every single day, then seeing the rewards reaped on the page.
Get Trapped in a Cave
Okay, we weren't really trapped, but in my suspense novelist's mind, we could have been.
On our last day, we took a hike. We descended stone steps, darkness increasing with each one, and found ourselves at the bottom in a cave, staring at a pool of pristine sapphire water. Which we swam in.
It was one of the most profound experiences of my life. Silence so complete, beauty so unspoiled, water as clean as water must’ve been when the earth first sprang forth. As writers we need to find similarly untouched spaces inside ourselves in order to create the new worlds of our books.
There Are No Winners and Losers, Although Sometimes We Do Win or Lose
Vacay was one of the winning times, and I am so grateful to have had it. And I am happy to share another kind of winner—
Elizabeth V., who entered last issue’s giveaway, will receive a copy of Robert Crawford’s novel, Tatterdemalion. Congratulations, Beth!
Back home, amidst snow and ice
And an owl, who made an unprecedented daytime visit to our back meadow upon our return.
So happy to be with you all again!
I'll have a film update and possibly an (unrelated) announcement to make next time. Dun, dun, dun!
Love from the Hills of Wedeskyull,