Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.
– Henry David Thoreau, American author, poet, philosopher, naturalist, and leading transcendentalist
Not surprisingly, I have a stockpile of vacation and discretionary days, plus two floating holidays. Unfortunately, you can only carry over a certain amount of vacation and discretionary hours into the next fiscal year, which for my company is July 1st. When I checked my hours a few months ago, I realized I had to take time off. But when? There’s never a good time to take off because something is always due or meetings are scheduled either on the fly or weeks in advance. I understood that any time I would take off that wasn’t labeled “family vacation” was going to be writing time for me. I was not prepared to take a week off now, however, as such a chunk of time required activity that had to be productive, as far as I was concerned. I am not ready to sit down and write the second novel. But I am ready to sit down and read, conduct research, sketch characters, and plot storylines – all valuable, of course, and a precursor to actually writing.
The one thing I did know was that I did not want to take the same week off as my kids’ spring break. If I took off the same week they were out, I knew it would not be the “me” vacation that I so desperately wanted and needed. My kids were off last week. It was nice downtime for them. I am off this week, though I still have to push through some revisions, attend a meeting, write a summary, and respond to necessary e-mails. I scheduled an appointment with my acupuncturist to start the week off to be in a good place physically. In the weeks leading up to this week, I tried to clear off my home desk of tasks I needed to complete in order to have a clean work space and thus a cleared mental state of mind.
And thus yesterday so began my literary vacay. Note that I didn’t call it a stacay. Even though I’m going to be parked in my library chair with my tall stack of books on the Filipino-American War, pen and notepad, The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker, cup of tea (now gone cold), and most important box of See’s chocolates for sustenance, I consider this a vacation where I am not really at home. These books will be taking me to another country, another era. I scarcely will feel or hear the crinkly leather seat I’ll be inhabiting.
I will admit that once I was ensconced in my library chair yesterday, with a fortress of books around me, I started to panic. How would I ever get through all these books, remember all the historical details? How much time would I need? How long would it be before I get to the point of writing, and then how long will the writing process be? Will it once again be a 17-year odyssey as it was for A Village in the Fields? When you’re 52 and you have a full-time job and two kids, these are natural questions to ask. Stopping and smelling the roses is an iffy optional activity. I am often aware of seconds, minutes, hours, and making all of those measurements of time count.
I allowed myself to flounder a bit while I figured out what I could do. I thought back to last year and the year before – how did I restart and finish the first novel? Somehow, those years are smashed together when I look back. Last year, I finished the novel, blogged three times a week, and had an insane work schedule, along with helping with my kids’ schooling and attending their extracurricular activities, at the expense of sleep. I had more energy and was younger, of course, in those 15 previous years. Am I smarter as a writer after having gone through this writing exercise? Yes. So that’s what I told myself to hang my hat on. I did it before; I’ll do it again. Better and smarter. Don’t think about time. Just keep going. It’s what makes me happy, so in true Zen-like fashion, I told myself to enjoy the doing.
I hear my library chair calling me. It’s gotten cold again and I must warm the old leather. And read. Take notes. Most importantly, dream.