It's probably not a good business practice for an author to recommend a break from reading. Nor is it good professional practice for an author to stop reading. (Must always strive to get better…) But here I am, on vacation, with no plans, and I have not yet picked up a book.
Every year on vacation, I read or re-read a classic. Each year, I have enjoyed it so much, I have had trouble putting the book down. A sneaky little part of me, however, wanted the book to hurry up and be finished, because I wanted to do other things on my vacation.
This year I didn't. I have my classic picked out and loaded on my Kindle, but I have not started reading. Instead, I looked around. Here's what I found.
1. The sound of the ocean waves breaking is one of my most favorite sounds.
It's one sound that has never changed, throughout history. (As far as I know, anyway. I have only seen a few decades of history.) There's an incredible thought. The first people in the world to ever see the ocean heard exactly the same sound that we hear today. No enhancements, no digitalization. Nothing but the shear beauty of power.
2. My youngest loves to play in the sand. And she likes to help and be helped.
I remember my youngest child being grumpy in the past, but this year, she has really been much more pleasant. She has always enjoyed digging in the sand, and in earlier years, I was grateful for that easy entertainment. Every year, my feet have been buried in the sand. This year I enjoyed the bond of digging with her. Together, we buried everyone's feet to cool them off. And she's right. The feeling of wet sand on your hands is very relaxing.
3. My middle child is not a big fan of crabs.
I probably could have guessed this one, but it was nice to be there in person to see his reaction rather than hear the story at dinner and wonder where I was. (Oh yeah, I was in Civil War Georgia…)
4. There is some great scenery on the beach.
The beach is beautiful, but also, I love to people-watch. It's amazing to see how so many people can come to the same place and all be thinking something different. I try to read minds, too, based on what the person is doing. Kids playing in the sand are the best. Older folks are trickier. Also, I look for cute new bathing suit trends.
5. No one dies from boredom. (But it does lead to fake hunger.)
I almost posted, "I'm Bored!!!" on Facebook. I knew if I did, however, I would get sucked back in to Facebook and miss other things. Most of my "busy items" on my to-lists are back at home. Cleaning, phone calls, working, appointments, errands. None of it can be done at the beach! So here I am… back to sitting. Sitting, thinking, day dreaming. (OK, yes, I still do some exercise too. But not enough to take up a whole day.) All this time has been here on past vacations, but I never found it while I was lost in a book. I really haven't been bored since I was a child. I hated it then, and was a little afraid of returning to it now. But you know what? It really wasn't that bad. However, my brain often decided the best way to fill the void was to take a trip to the kitchen.
6. Adults can be grumpy when you interrupt them to talk while they are reading.
My kids learned this years ago, and I knew it when I was a kid too. But somehow, when you are on the other side of that book, you forget. The adults to whom I was trying to talk (whom also shall remain nameless) didn't even know I was talking to them. I am not putting down these adults - as I am usually one of them. But I am reminded how my children feel when I do it to them.
7. Days are longer than I thought they were.
Why did vacations seem to fly by so fast in previous years? Because I thought time was standing still while I was reading when it actually flew by. (I am SUCH a slow reader.) Without a book, I am getting done everything I want, and some of what the kids want me to do too. Mini golf might not be quite the chore I always thought it would be. Maybe this year, when it's time to leave, I will actually be ready to go.
8. There are lots of people in this family.
And they're all a little different. We're a party of 11 when we are all together. (My parents, my brother's family, and mine.) Watching the interaction and relations between each of the members is intriguing. Different family members act differently to one another. If you're in the mood for playful beatings, you go to my dad. Baseball talk? My nephew. The latest book? My sister-in-law. Everyone brings their whole world to the family, and interacting with each completely can take up nearly a lifetime.
9. Sometimes just sitting is okay. (But only when I have, or have plans to exercise.)
I sat on the beach today. I had to tell myself a few times that it was vacation, and it was okay to not be doing something. That self-talk was the only thing that kept me in my chair. Because I sat, I was able to do some of the other things on this list. (And knowing I would be on a bike within a few hours helped me not feel too lazy.) BTW- those who enjoy my "Body Language" humor series will soon hear from my body how difficult a battle this actually was.
10. My favorite waves are the ones that have not broken yet.
I remember this vaguely from my days as a kid, when I actually went in the ocean as deep as possible. (I'm still a little grossed out by the ocean as an adult, but this year I spent a little more time in it, just up to my knees.) The unbroken waves roll your floating body in a way similar to when you drive over that slight hill on the road and your stomach goes airborne. Why to we like that feeling so much? Maybe because we just realized that we got away with a free amusement park ride.
*Bonus- The little waves close to the shore look like they are smiling and giggling as they run up to your toes.
Now, some of you will be pulling out that soapbox, ready to yell, "Same with phones! Put away the phones!" I did keep my phone out with me. Why? First, because it is my camera. I don't want to forget this special time, and I want the kids to be able to enjoy it later too. Also, I did want to share it on social media with my friends. Not everyone gets a family vacation like we do. Some don't want to hear about it, but some really do. I appreciate those in the latter group, and I am happy to oblige.
And please. I am not condemning anyone for reading! (As a matter of fact, I would love to offer you a suggestion for reading here.) There is a time for everything, and if reading is your pleasure, you should definitely make time for it. All I'm saying is that I took a break and noticed a few things.
If you are thinking hard about it, you are realizing that, if I am writing this while on vacation, I am on my computer, and not doing any of the above. Well, I have a short memory, and didn't want to forget, so I had to write about it right away. And yes, technically, I am reading it too.
But that short memory of mine? That's exactly why I am very glad to be able to enjoy this "book vacation" as well. Who knows what I'll remember of these vacations when the kids grow up?
This is for all my writing friends out there. I am writing because I love you. Now, you better get your big girl (or big boy) pants on, because what I have have to say might sting.
Here's a little piece of my writing background. Once I had written my first novel, I began to send it to publishers and agents in hopes of finding someone to take on my project. After 19 rejections, I began to see that if I wanted to see this work in print, I might have to do it myself.
When I made the decision to self-publish, I knew my work needed to be looked over. You know. For the little things I may have missed like missing commas or forgotten capitals. Because nothing is more frustrating than reading a book and finding a typo, right?
After all, how bad could it be? In high school, I took AP English and passed the exam. I did so well on my college placement boards that I placed out of taking any composition classes at all. So, yes. That means it had been 20 years since I was a student of English. But the language hadn't changed any, so I was sure I was fine.
I had even been a teacher of English - as high as 6th grade, mind you. And all that stuff was still pretty familiar. Many people hate me for constantly reminding them of which "your" is needed.
So I formed a group of my friends to be "betas" and tasked them with finding my little typos. They hadn't gotten very far when, I am convinced, God sat upon His throne, shaking His head, saying, "Oh no. She's really going to do it. She is going to try to represent me with a book that looks like that."
Harsh, you say? I wish I could show you the compilation of edits made to the very first chapter of my "masterpiece." The work I had poured over. And over. And over again.
I wasn't going to catch my mistakes, because I didn't know what I was doing wrong.
So, God set the wheels in motion, stopping me from my adventure into self-publication and finding a publisher willing to work with me. Since I had been nervous diving into publishing my book with no knowledge of the publishing world whatsoever, I jumped at the chance to have a professional do it for me.
After all the contract signing, copyrighting, and other business about which I was clueless was finished, I leaped into the next phase of editing.
O. M. Gosh. I felt like a first grader, who just learned to read, being taught (patiently) all the rules of composition that I either never knew or was choosing to ignore for the sake of voice. (I learned later that voice didn't have to break rules and look ugly. There were better ways to achieve it.)
My editor taught me what felt like years' worth of proper grammar, syntax, style, and story-telling. I wish I could list it all! Actually, I have been compiling a list of my biggest mistakes. I use it as a check-off list as I proofread my other novels. It is an on-going list, because sadly, I know there is plenty more to learn.
The result was a book that I was not embarrassed to sell. I probably wouldn't have been embarrassed to sell it before the editing, but I should have been!
Okay, writers, what are you taking away from this? I'm not putting you down if you have selected the self-publishing route, especially if that was the way you wanted to go in the first place. However, if you are only self-publishing because your work has been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers and agents, I would suggest looking into finding a professional editor. A publisher might be too busy to tell you that his pet peeve is when someone starts a sentence off with the word, "But," but an editor will fix it so you can experience a valued look from the publisher.
I haven't made it as an author, if "making it" counts as selling more than 13 books. So, my opinion might not matter all that much. But as a reader, I will tell you that I do not want to waste my time on a book that is not well-written. Please give me your best.
Here is a muse. Or a whine. But let's try to stay positive. It's a thought.
Because sacrifice, though difficult, is always for the greater good.
This time last year, I had finished writing a few of my books, and I wasn't sure which direction I wanted to pursue next. I had sent out queries to many publishers, and they had almost all come back denied. (The ones that hadn't come back at all, I also assumed were denied. Though I was wrong about one of them...)
Was I going to continue to wait for someone who knew what they were doing to accept my work, or was I going to self-publish. I hadn't decided yet. So in the meantime, I found a diversion. Reading.
It might seem to you that an author doing some reading is as logical as a fish going for a swim. Those who really know me know that reading has never been my thing. I was always the slowest reader in my class. I will never forget timed reading tests in 8th grade when the teacher would ask, "Is everyone done now?" Of course everyone was, it had been an insanely long amount of time. Everyone was done, but me. And that put a bad taste in my mouth for reading. I just could never finish quickly enough!
Things changed as an adult. There were no more time limits. I sat at home, as a stay-at-home mom, in my comfy chair, with more time than I realized. So, I hauled my 4-year-old to the library, week after week, checking out movies for her to keep her entertained while I would take out three books at a time of my own choosing.
I found a favorite author - Richard Paul Evans - whose works were short, different, and very addicting. This time last year, I sat in my comfy chair by the big window in the living room, with cats on my lap, and read. Today, I can gleeful say my second novel is already in the works to come out soon.
But instead of sitting here, getting lost in someone else world, wondering if she will or if she won't accept the flowers from the strange man, or if Mom will find out the secret in the tent, I am in a different world. The world is one I have created. I know the answers. I know the end of the story. What I am trying to do now is tug at my brain to find the exact adjective that describes that smile. I am trying to explain how it feels to die, when I have never done it myself. (Neither have you though, so you'll never know how accurate I am!) I am trying to decide if I need to break for a new paragraph or a new chapter. And Lord help me, what do I NAME that chapter that will make you need to read it, give you an idea what is going to happen but not reveal too much.
In 75 characters or less.
I missing guessing. I miss being surprised. I miss hunting down another book. I miss crying in the shower. I miss driving in the car wondering how things continued for the character after it ended. Writers should be reading, and when I have time, I will delve into the many Kindle books I have waiting for me. But first things are first, and I need to take care of my audience.
Would I trade it? The writing for the reading? Not in a million years. These characters, settings, plots I have made are my babies. I created them. Another author (King, perhaps? I forget.) calls them darlings. And just like when you have children, you have to make a few sacrifices while they are growing. My characters and plots are still growing in my head. If I neglect to let them out onto the computer, they could die and never be found again (so thick is the sludge of information in my brain).
One day, they will be fully grown, and set free in my books. I will gladly kick them out, as they have spent too much time in my brain as it is. And they will be all yours to play with. Then, I will pick up someone else's book and nurture their characters for a little while.
Passion Under Grace,