Two years ago I posted a thing about how I suck at vacations. I wrote it right after the family and I got back from an awesome trip to Disneyworld. Well, pretty much everything in that post is still true, and that’s why I’m writing this post today.
You see, I’m technically on vacation right now. Two days ago I drove 12 hours north to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to attend the World Boardgaming Championships. While I’m here doing what I LOVE doing, the kids and my wife are headed to the beach (we don’t actually have time this busy summer to vacation together - don’t say anything; we know it’s fucked up). I may or may not join them when I head back south - depends on how I feel. You know what I mean: it depends on whether I’m completely exhausted or not.
I’m having a fucking blast. I’m drinking great beer all day long that I bought from my buddy Eddie’s Ale Yeah! shop in Roswell, and I’m playing Twilight Imperium and a whole host of other games with Michael Buccheri, Matt Loter, Josh Look, Shellie and Al Rose, Bernie Frick, Wilson Knight, Rob Buccheri, Andy Waller, and a whole bunch of other people (you can see a few of them in the picture at the top.
Still, right this minute, I’m sitting at a Starbucks down the street from the host hotel, parked in front of my computer and logging time BECAUSE IF I DON’T DO THIS NOW I’ll be stressed out the rest of the week, beer and games and friends be damned. That’s how I am. I can’t help it. And it’s funny that all I have to do is write a short bit about writing a short bit, and I feel better.
There. I feel better.
I WANNA WRITE!!!
And looky here - I’m squeezing a little wordsmithing in the cracks. Thing is, this is a quick knock off to keep the juices flowing and to fill space, and not a bona fide thousand word essay on phalluses, or a thousand words on my new novel, or a new poem, or even a three hundred word ad spot for a finnicky client.
I knew when summer hit and the kids started staying home from school every day that my overall productivity would go down. Kids need stuff like food and attention, and sometimes the reward for playing or talking with your kid is much more immediate and gratifying than churning out even the most satisfying blocks of copy you can possibly churn out.
Alas, though, it is not the children which have wrecked my productivity this week. The fault for THAT lies with my material possessions.
I tried to mow the grass today - the shear key, whatever the fuck that is, went funky, and the mower won’t stay on. I refuse to pay someone money to fix the damn thing - the repairs will likely cost more than buying a new mower - so I’m gonna take the engine apart myself when I have time (ha, ha). I’ve done it before; I can do it again. When I have the time.
Meanwhile, I borrowed my neighbor’s electric mower to finish the job. What a strange device that thing is. The cord on it was pretty annoying.
Besides the lawn mower, I have a leak somewhere in my washing machine and its adjoining pipes. I’ve narrowed it down - the leak is NOT in the 14-year-old machine itself, and that’s good news. The bad news is I can’t figure out WHERE the leak is. Tomorrow will see me under the house with a flashlight, checking the cold water pipes. There is also a possibility that the roof is leaking, and not the washing machine at all. What fun THAT will be.
Add to that the kids being home all day, which equals added distractions as well as extra housework, and you can understand why this little chunk of oh-woe-is-me is all that I’ve gotten written in the past couple of days.
That said, I DO have a lot of things in the pipeline for this site: two book reviews I intend to write, but that I want to write thoughtful reviews of; another War Between States podcast; an essay from my friend Caleb Wynn; and a summary of the latest several episodes of Table Top.
These things must wait, however. I have a leak to find.
Those of you who come by this site often enough know that sometimes I feel compelled to write something personal - about what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and how I feel about it all.
You also probably know that I TRY to post something at least once a week, if not more often, and that I’ve been pretty regular for almost three years. Now, scroll down and you’ll see that the last time I posted was January 27th - almost two weeks ago. And I haven’t been on vacation or away from my office. I’ve been here.
The lack of communication on this site is only a symptom of a larger issue. I’ve also been slack on a number of other fronts - promoting my published stories, editing my novel which is scheduled to come out this year, submitting to other publications, stuff like that. This little post I’m writing now is to explain why. I say it’s my excuse , but really I don’t NEED an excuse - I’m one of the hardest working cats you know. Really, I’m writing this because I need to organize how I feel about the last two months, and I need to share it.
Basically, all those things I listed above have been prioritized lower because of three circumstances which have come about since early December.
First, my wife’s grandmother died. Now, while this may seem sort of irrelevant (although it still probably strikes you as sad), here’s why it’s not. Irrelevant, that is.
You see, Granna had two daughters - Linda and Paula. Linda is my mother-in-law who lives about 20 minutes away, and Paula is my aunt-in-law who lives right around the corner. Whenever they come around, I can often take time out from the kids and house chores, and use that time to write, organize, and promote myself.
I didn’t realize how much I relied on Paula and Linda until they became distracted by their mother’s death.
Simultaneously to Granna’s passing, my own mother had a run-in with pneumonia and a hernia. Mom is a dedicated smoker with a history of emphysema and bronchitis, so you can imagine how nasty and scary a run-in with pneumonia might be for her. She also has severe osteoporosis and a lot of scar tissue in her abdomen from cancer surgery she had when she was in her 30s. So the hernia was pretty hellish, too.
Take my mom out of the “helping me out” picture and add the stress of nearly losing her, and you begin to imagine how touch-and-go the last two months have been.
The second thing that’s happened is that Aida (my wife) changed contracting positions. For a couple of years now, she’s been an employee of my company - the most gainfully employed employee, I might add. The shitty economy and the less in-demand profession I chose for myself means she’s been our major breadwinner in recent years, while I’m the “supplemental income” person. I do take pride in the fact that it’s MY company, but still….
This new contracting position has had two effects. One is that the company we’re contracting for has put us through a few more hoops than previous contracts ever did. Since it IS my company, that’s meant I’ve had to step up and install several business infrastructural things that I’ve never had to install before, and doing that takes time. Fucking bank and government bureaucracy can get ridiculous.
The other effect is that Aida’s putting in lots more hours than she did at the previous gig, which means that I have to pick up the slack at home. Without the usual help from Linda, Paula, and my mom, that’s a tall order. Thank God my kids are getting to an age where they’re more self-sufficient - I don’t have to wipe butts or dress anyone anymore - but I still have to cook and help with homework and harass the kids to do things. Pretty much after 3 p.m. on weekdays, my writing work is done.
Finally, I realized during the holidays that, while the published stories were selling admirably, while this web site has been doing what it’s supposed to, and while my presence in the world of social media and marketing has solidified, I hadn’t been taking enough time to CREATE. I’ve said it time and time again that the reason I DO THIS is because I feel a compulsion to create art and to share it - and while the sharing part has been satisfactory, I haven’t MADE much stuff. I have a two new novel ideas, a graphic novel, two short stories, two poems, and a screenplay that I started working on in 2011. None of them have seen much progress since September.
So while I’ve been a little remiss on promoting the published stories (and my sales have reflected my neglect), and while this site got spotty there for a while, I HAVE actually moved forward on some of those projects. I’ve created. In the nooks and crannies, when I find time away from the kids and the business and the internet, I make up stuff. And it’s good.
There you go. Probably more information about my life right now than you thought you’d get on a chilly Thursday morning in February, but I needed to put it out there, and I feel better for doing so.
That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.
I don’t have much to say right now.
I don’t suffer from writer’s block - I’m not entirely sure I believe it exists, although I’ll never say definitively that it doesn’t, because as soon as I do someone will start screaming about how they’ve suffered from it and how I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.
I’ve never suffered from it. I can always sit down and put either pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard and generate SOMETHING. It might be crap, but it’ll be something. And if it IS crap, usually I can either glean something worthwhile from it - a line, a turn of phrase, an idea - or else it gets me past whatever’s blocking the muse and gets me rolling again the NEXT time I sit down to write.
Still, right now I have nothing to say. Except what I’ve just said.
Summer’s here, which has meant - for me at least - that I haven’t had to get up early. This has changed the dynamic of my days, and I’m still not used to it. I think by the time I get used to it, summer will be over and I’ll be back to the grind. (Being a full time freelancer and primary caregiver for my kids means I get a teacher-like vacation in the summer, for those of you who are wondering). I don’t have to get up early in the mornings, but I still have to work.
I’m working on a number of things right now. Edits on the novel I’ll be publishing later this year. SOMETHING new for the novel I’m podcasting via this site. A new novel. A couple of new short stories. Marketing for the stories I published last month. A couple of paying client projects. Stuff around the house. This web site.
Things that are very satisfying, but not immediately visible. Except for this site.
And I don’t really have very much interesting say on this site right now.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I go on a prolonged trip away from my home and my routine, it only takes a couple of days before I’m ready to come back to the usual grind. I’m curious, actually, if anybody out there feels the same as I do when you’re “on vacation.”
Lemme tell you a little bit about it, and see what you think.
As many of you know, I don’t have an 8 to 5 go to the office dress in slacks and a nice shirt job. I haven’t had a job like that for 12 years - the closest thing was probably the stint I did at Cisco, where I had to log on from my home office at 8 in the morning and had to be available until 5 or 6 in the evening. But even then, I was at home, and I attended meetings in my underwear and blasted Beastie Boys sometimes while I worked. And then there were the years I worked part time at Maizie Hale PR. I had to go into the office at 10 or so and stay until 2 or 3, and I had to dress up a little. But that was part time, and most of the week I was doing my own thing. And I rarely had to deal with rush hour traffic.
So the difference between me and MOST people, I suppose, is that they have a set routine and a place they have to be every day, and having that pattern day in and day out probably gets to them, such that when they get their vacation time - those precious 2 weeks in the summer, those most excellent of days during the holiday season - they are more than ready to get away from all their stress, and either laze around on the beach with a few cocktails or spend some time hanging out with their family.
My thing is - the longer I stay on vacation, the more stressed out I get. I simply cannot settle into lying around all day on the beach, or going swimming whenever I like, and NOT doing the things I usually do on a daily basis. By the time a week has gone by, I’m cranky, lethargic, and ready to go home. And my stress is usually higher than it was when I left.
I think I’m this way for two reasons. First is that, because I DON’T have a routine imposed on me, I have to impose one on myself. I keep running lists of things to do, and I always, ALWAYS have something that needs to be done. These things include editing my current story or novel, updating this site, finishing client work, doing odd jobs around the house, and running this errand or that to make sure my household operates as smoothly as a household can. When I’m actively doing these things, and I can see the to do list disappear every day I feel good about myself. And let’s face it, doing things like that is just about impossible on vacation. Most people look forward to leaving stuff behind for a little while, but I thrive on all that stuff - it’s in my nature. When I don’t have a list of things to do, I feel sort of empty.
The second is that I am capable of taking little “mini-vacations” every day. If I wanted to right now, even as I write this post, I could get up and turn on the Wii and knock out a few levels of Mario, or a few gigs of Rock Band. If I wanted to, I bet I could give one of my friends a call, and we could either hook up and play a game, or swing over to the Tavern and have a beer. So I don’t feel the need to “get away from it all” that most people do. In fact, when I “get away from it all”, that usually means I have to leave behind all the things that I get to do on my mini-vacations.
I recently went on vacation with my family to Disney World, and that’s what’s prompted me to write this. While we were there, sure, we had a great time riding rides, eating expensive food (and not cooking!), swimming in fake volcanoes, and sleeping in. But every day that went by, I kept thinking of all the things I had to do at home. And when I got home, the stress that had been building up while I was away all but disappeared. After I post this, I’m going to go outside and mow the grass. And that will make me feel better than any poolside cocktail could.
That’s messed up, and I know it. But that’s the way it is.