Leigh Lauck’s Day Off

FADE IN:

INT. BEDROOM – MORNING

LEIGH 

She coughs piteously, her body limp.

I – I don’t feel so good. I’m all tingly and achey-wachey. 

Hacking anew, she falls helplessly back onto the pillow.

GOOD HUSBAND 

Why don’t you stay home today, honey? 

LEIGH

I’ll be okay. 

Her fevered eyes are pained but stoic.

I have to write a blog post today. I have to do it.

GOOD HUSBAND

No, sweetie. You stay in bed. Just call me if you need anything. I love you.

LEIGH

She stiffens as she draws a shaking palm to her forehead.

It’s nice to know I have such a loving, caring husband. You’re a very special person.

GOOD HUSBAND closes the door. The lock clicks. LEIGH’S eyes slide from the door to CAMERA. Her lips curl in a wicked smile.

LEIGH

He bought it.

Cue 80s montage music.

Photo courtesy of Eugene0126jp, WikiMedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Eugene0126jp, WikiMedia Commons

Okay, so that’s not exactly how it happened. You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m having fantasies of being Ferris Bueller (again). It’s certainly how I felt today. And if you’ve never seen the funny and brilliant John Hughes movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which features a criminally adorable Matthew Broderick, stop reading this blog immediately and get thee to Amazon post haste. No, seriously. I mean it. 

Actually, I have a wonderful husband who doesn’t require me to feign illness. I am lucky that he is so supportive of my writing ambitions, ’cause being married to a writer can be both weird and challenging. I spend a lot of time staring at my laptop or out into space. Or spooking him with non sequiturs, when I decide to randomly share pieces of my constant, internal monologue out loud. 

Good Husband: Standing on chair, leaning precariously into thin air to change lightbulb. 

Me: THE ALIEN VICAR HAS AN EVIL TWIN!

Hijinx ensue ending in minor first aid.

So today has been a day of goofing off, feeling guilty about it, and goofing off some more. I finished my first novel about six weeks ago, which left me feeling like I’d just emerged from the surf after being shipwrecked. It was a frenzied and fevered process that consisted mostly of me living in pajamas in my cave. There is a permanent imprint on the couch from my butt.

I’ve finished the first rewrite and my little bundle of joy (well, bundle of something) is now at Beta Reader Day Care. And there’s plenty to do while I’m waiting for their feedback: dig into my current work in progress, write a synopsis of my novel, and develop my Auffer Plafform (for the uninitiated, that’s “author platform.” I was stuffing a fudge brownie into my maw when my friend and creativity coach, Milli Thornton, proposed the idea. “Auffer Plafform?” was my horrified response, crumbs flying).

Armed with the best intentions, my day instead ended up looking like this:

Wake up.

9:00-11:00. Surf Twitter reading every single article for writers at #amwriting, including articles I’ve read and re-read countless times before. #AmNotWriting #NotEvenClose #NiceTry

11:00-12:15. Stalk agent blogs online and commit to memory their preferences and peeves. Try to intuit their deepest desires and dreams.

12:15-1:00. Nap.

1:00-1:05. Scarf down a turkey sandwich.

1:05-3:30. Stalk more agent blogs. Ask Magic 8 Ball if my query letter is ready. Admonish self for being ridiculous. Ask Magic 8 Ball if I’m being ridiculous.

3:30-5:00. Check email every three minutes. “Like” my friends’ photos of cute pugs in costumes on Facebook. Take “Which Gemstone Are You?” quiz. Speculate on what it means to be a topaz.

5:00-5:15. Make bed. Congratulate self for being a good domestic partner. Know inwardly that I am a lazy sloth.

5:15-6:02. Nap.

And so on…

I don’t have these kinds of days too often. In the last year, I left a job I’d had for a long, long time (too long) that required me to be on-call and productive almost all the time. Now I feel guilty when I’m not “doing.” Whether that “doing” means writing, the laundry, returning phone calls to family, or working on my Auffer Plafform, it amounts to the same thing. I beat myself up for every moment spent not “doing.”

So, I’ve had a revelation about that.

Ferris Bueller skipped school. He took a day off. If he did that every day, he’d be in real trouble. He wouldn’t accomplish the things he needed to realize his dreams. He’d still be in the twelfth grade in 2022 at the awkward age of fifty-something (awkward for a senior in high school, anyway.)

But on his day off he had rich experiences and adventures with his friends. He sang “Danke Schoen” in a parade, foiled a snooty maître d’, and viewed paintings by Seurat and Edvard Munch. It was a moment in time, magical and singular. And it was but one day.

Admittedly, I didn’t zoom around Chicago in a Ferrari making Memories to Last a Lifetime. But my day of slothing about has its own value. Fallow time – playtime – is underrated. It is the yin to productivity’s yang, a necessary balance we often overlook. Giving the conscious mind a rest allows the subconscious to sort through its backlog. When the mud I’ve stirred up from too much busy-ness settles, the view in the pond is a lot clearer.

Some of my best ideas arrive easily after a short period of slothfulness. They may have been standing there all along, waving for my attention, but I would have walked right past them in my rush, annoyed they were blocking the sidewalk. After a day of naps and Twitter, I finally felt ready to write this blog post, my first bloggy contribution to my Auffer Plafform. It may not be the pinnacle of insight, but without my lazy day, I would have ended up writing some terrible, strained article entitled “10 Easy Steps to Plotting Your Novel.” Others do this very well. Not me. You’d never want to see that article from me.

I’ve resolved to seek a balance of work and play in my writing life. Heck, in my life in general. I’ll make lists of things to do (I am a list nerd) and set reasonable deadlines for accomplishing my goals. I’ll be accountable; I want to reach said goals, after all. But I also resolve (and I may need to come back to revisit this post to remind me!) to intersperse my work with rest and play. And remember that rest and play are vital to my creative work, and to my well-being.

In the sage words of Ferris, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

What do you think of the value of down time? Does it feed your creative life? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you!

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9 thoughts on “Leigh Lauck’s Day Off

  1. Charlotte Rains Dixon

    You have a blog!!!!! I’m so excited I’m breaking a firm writerly rule not to use exclamation points!!!!!! And I love the topic of slothfulness. I’m a pro at it, too. Isn’t it amazing how we have that in common? Or maybe it is just a common trait of all writers. Interestingly, I’ve had a period of slothfulness around my novel. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t convince myself to get back to work on it. I know myself well enough by now to realize that my brain needed a rest from it, and a chance to ponder connections. I got back to it this morning (well, if 300 words counts) and it felt good. Again, so happy you’re blogging now!

    Reply
    1. Leigh Lauck Post author

      Charlotte, you have officially left the first comment on my very first blog post!!! (Yes, I am getting lavish with the exclamation points, too!!!) Thank you. I am so happy to know I’m not the only sloth out there. And you’re right — I think it is a matter of knowing yourself well enough to allow yourself that time to recharge, and not force the writing. Writing may look like doing next to nothing from the outside, but it takes a lot of juice. Congratulations on getting back to your novel today! 300 words definitely counts.

      Reply
  2. Judith Shaw

    Well done you!

    A lot to contemplate in your blog. I come to the question of down time from a different perspective. As a mostly retired editor with a husband who loves to travel, I find myself with more down time than I know what to do with. When I worked with horses, there were never enough hours in the day. Now I have to fight off the lethargy that comes from not enough to do and get to work with my writing.

    As time goes by it gets easier. I no longer fear that I’ll boot up the computer and stare at an empty page for the rest of my natural life. Confidence that I will come up with the goods (whatever they happen to be that day) is growing, and my need to procrastinate is fading away. I’m getting a lot of energy from my writing, which makes it easier to do even more.

    But I’m VERY far from finishing–or even starting–my first novel. Congratulations on your blog, on work accomplished and work still to be done. I can’t wait to read your novel.

    Reply
    1. Leigh Lauck Post author

      Thank you, Judith. Your comment gave me a lot to contemplate, too. I know what you mean about fighting off the lethargy, and the temptation of procrastination that (I believe) is born from that fear of staring at an empty page. My challenge is learning to balance – to discern better when I need a break or am simply procrastinating out of fear of or downright resistance to writing.

      Having had a very, very busy life up until recently, so I can really relate to your comment in that vein. I was immersed every moment in a busy job, and sometimes it’s hard to switch gears to the “creative life.” By that I mean a life where the time spent “marinating” (and not “active”) is directly proportional to the fruitfulness of time spent “doing” (i.e. in our case, writing). I’m learning, though. The hardest part is not judging myself when at the end of the day, I don’t have something tangible I’ve accomplished to point to.

      Judith, I really enjoyed your blog post over on Fear of Writing. I’m so happy your confidence is growing and you are finding satisfaction and energy in your writing. Me, too! I hope you’ll read my novel one day…and I hope one day to read yours!

      Reply
  3. Mary Reed

    *High-fivin’ Leigh* Right on, beautiful sister. Loved every word of this, and am so happy to see your spirited energy beaming so brightly into this virtual world. Can’t wait to read that novel!
    Big love, Mary

    Reply
    1. Leigh Lauck Post author

      *High-fivin’ you right back, Mary!* Thank you for your wonderful words. You made me feel terrific. Can’t wait to read your book, too, Author Lady. Love to you!

      Reply
  4. marsha and gregory lauck

    We have both been happily retired former educators (combined experience of over 70 yrs) since 2005 and we have learned one important truth:
    downtime sure as heck beats uptime!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
    1. Leigh Lauck Post author

      Amen to that, Mami y Papi. And as “happily retired former educators”, you deserve every moment of downtime you get. You deserve, in fact, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

      Reply
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