Play Is Good for the Soul: Why Agents, Authors and Editors All Deserve a Vacation

Being of Swedish decent I’ve been known to rave about the country and culture I was raised to love because, well, there’s a lot to love about Sweden. Despite my bias, there is one thing about Sweden, and Scandinavian culture in particular, that I truly believe in and that’s their vacation time.

In the United States, we live in a culture where you brag about working 18-hour days and how much vacation time you didn’t take. We shake our heads at people who pay more attention to cell phones then the people around them, but also shake our heads if we hear they are not planning on checking email over a family vacation. In my opinion, we are working ourselves into a creative morass (still not sure if this is the right word).

Vacation, or just time away, is what fuels us. It’s why so many return after the holidays with fresh ideas, new goals and an enthusiasm to make things happen.

Every year I make an effort to take three weeks off and every year I stress over the possibility. I’ve learned that one week of vacation isn’t enough. For me it takes a full week just to get into vacation mode. Two weeks are certainly better, but three weeks (if you can do it) is the ideal. It allows me to fully let go of all of my stress and anxiety and remember why I love my job. It gives me a week to get into vacation mode, a full week to be in vacation mode, and a week to slowly ease back into the world. Three weeks gives me a renewed energy and enthusiasm for everything in my life.

Three weeks is also really difficult to do which is evident by the response I get from others in the publishing industry when I tell them I’ll be taking that amount of time off. Panic and sadness immediately appear on their faces. The first question is always how my clients feel about it. I guess most of them think that if they aren’t accessible 24/7 their clients will fire them. Maybe I’m lucky. I mean I know I have great clients, but maybe they’re more exceptional than even I realize. I’ve never had anyone berate me for wanting to take time off. Of course, I also have a great team they can call on if they need help and they all have my cell phone number. I’ve yet to take three weeks in such a remote location that I can’t be reached. I’ve also yet to take three weeks without checking in at least once (I need to work on that).

One of the hard things about being an author is that you often have another job and the idea of taking time off from your writing for a vacation, when the writing is sometimes your vacation, seems crazy. Don’t let it. It’s important. We all need time away from our lives to just live. To rediscover ourselves and discover ourselves. And we all need to respect the time off that others need. We’re in publishing. We write books, edit books and agent books. While we might change lives, it’s pretty doubtful that any of us are saving lives (and even doctors need vacations).

January is not often the time of year when we think of vacations, but maybe we should. Maybe one of your goals for this year is to shut down the computer for a few weeks (or at least a very long weekend), pick up a book and just play. Play is good for the soul. Maybe even better than chicken soup.

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4 comments

  1. Completely agree with you, Jessica. In this day and age, with our smart phones providing phone and internet access, we’re expected to be on call 24/7. To go on holidays and not be able to be reached is almost unthinkable! This is the reason The Hub, Barbarians and I go away for a week every year (or at least do our absolute best to do so) to somewhere that internet and even phone access is limited. In Australia, that isn’t a hard thing to do, at least for now.

    We’ve already booked our holiday this year. We find if we book it in January we’re committed and make the time. We’re going to stay in a little dog-friendly cottage (our fur-child always comes too) on a 200 acre cattle property on the banks of a creek. It’s right outside a national park and Ramsar listed wetland. Can you tell I can’t wait?

    You’re right though, Jessica, you really need at least 2 weeks to fully enjoy a holiday. 3 weeks would be bliss!

  2. I have to comment on Jessica’s longer vacations from the point of view of one of her clients. Those weeks where she’s out of contact have taught me a really interesting coping strategy–one I try to use even when she’s merely a phone call or text message away. As any author with a good agent knows, many of our contacts with our agents are more a need to vent than for any actual assistance. We’re all grownups and we know how to contact our editors if there’s something that needs to be handled and the agent isn’t available. In my experience, Jessica has never left in the midst of a contract negotiation or with something of a time-sensitive nature being left undone, but the venting is important too.

    So, I write her long, involved emails with all my gripes and concerns and then I file them in a folder until she comes back. And then I reread them, to see if they’re still important enough to actually send them to her. Oddly enough, I’ve never sent a single one. I used to keep them as a reminder, but realized that’s just silly–writing my gripes took it off my mind and out of my need to obsess over the issues, which is all venting or ranting is meant to accomplish anyway, right?

    So there ya go, Jessica. Your vacations are good for MY mental health, too. And I’m not even Swedish!

  3. I don’t have a smart phone. I have a flip-style cell phone that is never turned on. This is because it’s only for emergency use away from home. Why? Because there’s very limited cell service where I live.

    Visitors to our edge of nowhere are often appalled to discover their gadgets can’t get a signal. They don’t understand why hubby and I love living here. They can’t grasp that NOT being hooked up and available 24/7 is actually paradise.

    Yes, we have a guest room, though we mostly use it as a library. Perhaps we should consider renting it out to vacationing writers who wouldn’t mind being unplugged for a time.

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