I was not on vacation, even thought I was away from home for an entire month.
I seem to be unwittingly developing a habit for having “working summers”.
Despite occasionally going on what could be considered conventional vacations, some even involving trips abroad, over the past few years, I’ve not found much relaxation during my summers.
Part of this is my own doing – such as the years I spent my summer working on rewrites for my WIP, or researching for the next novel I plan to write, which is set in Ancient Greece.
A larger part of my recent summers, however, have ended up filled with work related to untenable life circumstances. Such as the summer I had to unpack after being renovicted from my apartment and forced to move.
Or last summer, when I provided care to my ailing father, who later passed away in December.
This latter point came to influence how I spent my summer this year, which was without question the workingest one I’ve passed to date.
When telling people of my plans, I grew fond of saying I had three jobs to do during the month I spent in my hometown in Nova Scotia. These three jobs included the following:
When my dad passed away, he was still living in the same house I grew up in.
Although not a huge house, it was full of personal effects, both those of my dad himself, who wasn’t really one for getting rid of things, and even some belonging to me.
These were childhood items that I never bestirred myself to do anything about, even though my childhood days are now far behind me, and I haven’t lived in that house since I was 19 years old.
It’s not an easy task to clear away the remnants of someone’s life – packing it up in boxes and bags and making like it never existed at all. Throwing away or give away, but for a few key artifacts and findings of personal use, everything the person spent the best years of their life working to create.
It’s also not easy because it’s friggin’ hard work to turn out the contents of every cupboard and closet and drawer and crawlspace. Especially those that haven’t been bothered with for some time and bear a mantle of dust to prove it. And especially during the sweltering heat of summer.
It takes a lot of possessions to fill a three-bedroom, two-storey house, and over the month of August almost all of them passed through my hands.
And weigh on my heart even still.
2) Work work
When I arrived at my mother’s house, which was where I stayed for the duration of my trip, the first words out of my mouth were, “I came here to work.”
But because I came with three different tasks, I need a way to distinguish between them all when reporting my actions to other people.
“Work work” became my verbal shorthand for my day job, which I needed to keep doing remotely for at least for part of my time away in order to leave for a whole month to begin with.
Since a large portion of my job is administrative, my physical presence isn’t always required so long as I can connect to my office computer via VPN. According to the agreement I made with my boss, I would put in at least a week’s worth of work from afar.
Luckily, my boss was amenable to my stretching out the hours of that week into a series of half-days.
Lucky also the large number time zones in North America, with my office being on the west coast of Canada and my location on the east coast.
This meant that I could put in a partial day at my dad’s house and finish in time do my half-day of work work at almost the same time I would’ve showed up at my office.
For two weeks straight I worked this disjointed double shift, which made for some very long days indeed, particularly given what else I was up to while on “vacation”.
Years ago, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about my efforts in writing while on vacation, the moral of this particular piece being that a) I completely failed at it, and b) if a writer truly wants to get writing done, they’d best just stay their behind home.
I’ve since come to discover, however, that revising while on vacation – especially a vacation that isn’t truly a vacation at all – is, no pun intended, an entirely different story.
When I told my mother I’d come to work, I’d already vowed that however hard I laboured on behalf of other people, I’d do at least and equal amount of work for myself.
This past July, I completed a read-through of my novel’s second draft, in the process making extensive line edits and notes on parts that need further revision. At the same time, I started recruiting writers to join a critique group, which will begin meeting and workshopping each member’s novel later this month.
With each of my novel’s 31 chapters requiring some level of attention, the month of August was not very much time at all to get ready for the start of the critique group.
And so, I spent my evenings revising my novel – after six hours of clearing out my dad’s house; after three-and-a-half hours working remotely at my day job.
Sometimes these revision sessions lasted for two hours. Usually, they ran four. There was not one evening during the entire month that I went to bed before midnight. Most nights, I stayed up until 1:00pm.
I arrived in Nova Scotia having already completed draft 3 of the first three chapters. Chapters 4 and 5 required significant rewriting, which each took days to complete.
After that, I aimed to get through a chapter a night, with an ultimate goal – which I achieved – of making it to chapter 20 in advance of my return trip.
My summer, as it were, thus complete, I’m now gearing up for my goings-on of the fall.
How did you spend your summer? Was it work-filled? Leisurely? A combination of both? Tell me about it in the comments.
(Image source #1, #2 and #3 – J.G. Noelle)