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.