…but I’m writing this blog post anyway because you know I never miss a Tuesday!

Let me talk a little bit more about this whole vacation thing and at least tangentially in context of what’s going on in the culture at large around the idea of work.

I grew up in the culture of work. Work, work, work. Money, money, money. Though something about it always felt toxic to me it was just the way the world (at least America) worked, so the pressure was always on. Don’t be a lazy sack of shit. Don’t be a shiftless freeloader, a welfare queen, or whatever demeaning label we can throw on someone who maybe needed a little bit of help—Heaven forefend—or maybe didn’t have any particular interest in being rich for riches’ sake. Then I graduated from college into Reagan’s America in which the new yuppie culture took all this to absurdist extremes. Those were the bad old days of bragging about how many hours you worked. If you weren’t putting in seventy hour weeks you were a lazy bastard who was never going to make it to the executive level, where, I assume, you started working eighty hour weeks? Or was that when you could finally start to coast?

I don’t even know. And honestly, I don’t care, and I didn’t care then, either. And I turned out to be right, anyway, so there’s that. All those seventy hour weekers who were summarily dumped onto the streets in 2007, if not before, learned the hard way that you can still fail at a job you hate, and that the company you’ve sacrificed your life to is much more likely to drop you without hesitation for no reason at all or simply collapse into nothing around you than it is to grant you a gold key to the Executive Bathroom.

But still, we all gotta eat, yeah? We still need money coming in. Bills gotta get paid, roofs have to be put over heads, cars require gas, and all that stuff.

I’ve somehow, and in many cases by sacrificing the “luxury” stuff I was never particularly interested in anyway, to live the life I actually wanted. I’ve lived a life, for the most part, in books, which is the thing I’ve loved most for my entire life. It has not given me enough money to buy a ten million dollar yacht, which is fine because I don’t want a yacht. I have no interest in yachts. Or European vacations. Or bespoke suits. Or Cuban (or any) cigars. Or, really, much of anything except, y’know… books.

I love my job and over the years I’ve worked hard at it, and in so doing have gotten good at it, and I love it so much I continue to work to get even better at it.

My job, primarily as an editor, is actually pretty hard. Mentally strenuous work, precise, intellectual labor, can be as exhausting as physical labor, and I think maybe even more so. As much as  love what I do it is possible to get burned out. Your brain only has so much to give.

Over the course of the last half of 2022 I let that burnout get the better of me. Even after taking a week off in July, I came back still a little overwhelmed, which caused me to get a  little more overwhelmed, and finally I finished out one of the worst years of my freelance life in a Deadline Hell that caused 2022 to spill over into 2023 with a series of seven-day work weeks.

But that all finished up yesterday, just in time for the scheduled week vacation my wife took off from work because we planned to go back to Vegas every seven months, and seven months have passed.

So, okay, Vegas didn’t work out, but we kept the vacation week, and here’s why.

You can get too much of a good thing, even a good job. So now, having decided never again to consign myself to Deadline Hell—and it was me who put myself there, no one else, including “America,” or the Protestant Work Ethic or whoever or whatever else—I sat down, took a look at what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong, and got my shit together by making two key decisions.

I will now, religiously and without fail, take one week off every seven months.

That’s still not a lot of time off, but before the week in July it had been five years between vacations. That’s not enough by any reasonable human’s estimation. During that week we might travel—we love Vegas. Like this week, we might stay home and putter around the house, binge watch something fun, read, go to bookstores, read some more, maybe take the dogs to the dog park… Crazy stuff like that.

I’ve figured out exactly how many hours I have to work in a week to get to a target income.

This is essential math for any freelancer—and it’s a perfectly reasonable amount of time, what I came up with. Lots less than seventy hours a week, I promise. I absolutely can hit that goal, serve my clients in the best way possible with reasonable deadlines and the attention to detail they and their books deserve, and not melt my brain in the process.

This is not rocket science, nor is it some amazing revelation on my part. This is basic stuff, actually, but sometimes you have to go off the rails to be reminded why you set up the rails in the first place, then get back on.

So today we’re going to the casino to once again test our luck on the slot machines. We might go to the buffet for lunch.

Yesterday we ran some errands then hit the used bookstore because I’m never going to really take a vacation from books. Books are my vacation. Anyway, I got all these for about $45, and that’s fantastic.

I don’t think I’m going to make it to the Day of the Accordian, but…

We’ve got some other fun staycationey things planned for the rest of the week, too. And I even managed to force myself not to look at my email yesterday at 5:40 pm. Though I did take a peek this morning at 5:40 am…

Nobody’s perfect.

Even at being on vacation.

See you next week!

—Philip Athans

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About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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