Drop that pen and paper! Step away from the keyboard! I’m saying this for your own good. If you’re a writer, chances are that your mind works differently from so-called normal people. Your mind works continuously, no breaks, no days off. Even dreams and nightmares (especially nightmares) become fodder for your pen. Every time you sit at a restaurant, you’re watching people, listening to snatches of conversation, noting sounds and smells. An airport terminal, even a hospital ER become scenes in your head. How many times have you snapped awake in the middle of the night, jumped out of bed, and jotted down a thought before it became lost in oblivion.
It’s time for a break.
My wife and I haven’t had a vacation in ten years. Oh, we’ve gone lots of places, but they all involved conventions, conferences or book signings. Fine for me, but my wife was just along for the ride and to be supportive. Or maybe she just doesn’t trust me alone with a bunch of fellow horror writers. I can’t blame her. We’re a scary bunch prone to doing weird things for fun. This year, we went on a real, honest-to-God vacation, a cruise.
When I head cruise, I said, yeah, that’s like jumping from a burning airplane with a bed sheet for a parachute or rafting a raging river clinging to a rubber ducky. Every time I turned on the news, it was another cruise ship on fire, sinking, powerless with overflowing toilets, or filled with hundreds of sick passengers. Not my idea of a good time. Don’t get me wrong. I love the water and I love boats. I worked on several boats in the Gulf of Mexico when I worked for oil companies. I had a few of those sink and a helicopter splash down, but that was just good times – fun. I’m older, somewhat wiser, and not as athletic now. Why a crusie. I could die just as easily in my own home with less hassle.
Nevertheless, we booked a 7-day cruise on the Princess Sapphire from LA to Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, and Ensenada. It was Wonderful. First, no internet (2.5 hours for $75), no phones, and no writing. I brought my Kindle along to catch up with my large backlog of reading, and managed to read the last half of V-Wars by Jonathan Maberry and friends. Almost 3,000 people aboard, but plenty of privacy. Shows, contests, movies, 10-12 restaurants, bars, games – plenty to do. First, we had a mid-ship outside mini-suite with a balcony. We had room service breakfast on the balcony. The crew catered to all our needs.
I’ve been to Mexico many times. I live in Tucson, so I can buy Mexican goods as cheaply as anyone just down the street with no drug cartel action, but I’ve never been to the pacific side of the country. A tour of Puerto Vallarta included a tequila factory with samples. Very nice. In Cabo I went to Cabo Wabo Cantina for lunch. Unfortunately, Sammy Hagar wasn’t there, but the food was good. The real star of the cruise was the cruise. I’ve never been so relaxed. I thought I would be jonesing to write, but I let my mind chill for a few days. It recharged the ‘leetel gray cells’, as Hercule Poirot is wont to say (Always wanted to write that, just never found the right spot).
The cruise allowed me to clear away the chaff of second-guessing already published books, doubts about re-writes and re-submissions, and the hundreds of ideas for new novels. I came away clear-minded and focused. I jumped right into my next project with newly found energy. So I say to you, fellow writer, or just normal person, step away from whatever you’re doing. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Find something, be it a cruise, a week-end away from home, or a project different from your normal routine. Allow your mind to expand, and then contract like the universe around you, and you will find new energy, new enthusiasm, and new hope for whatever you endeavor. Sometimes, a different prospective on projects and life in general are necessary for long-term survival as a species and as an individual.
PS I suggest a long cruise.