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The Internet-Free Summer Vacation

by Susan Henderson on June 15, 2011

So I got a big talking-to from a couple of the people who care about me the most. The gist of it: I take on too much at the expense of my own work and family. There are only so many hours in the day.

Say a writer is supposed to meet a deadline and that requires focused work as well as tons of in-depth research. And let’s say that that writer’s kids are growing up before her eyes, and she wants badly to spend all of her free time enjoying the summer with them.

The problem? It’s saying those are the priorities but spending time interviewing authors, reviewing newly published books, blurbing galleys, trying to read and promote everything her friends write, and basically saying yes to things that can only happen if she pulls time from her family and gives up on the idea of making her deadline.

You know I’m talking about uncomfortable stuff when I start writing in the third person.

I’m learning to say no to requests from other writers and publicists and publishers, but it fills me with stress, and saying no takes more time and headspace than you think. Imagine you get twenty, fifty, one hundred such requests a week… that’s a lot of delicate, guilt-ridden conversations with people who are disappointed in you!

And so the radical solution is that one of those people who cares about me the most plans to take custody of my laptop for the summer and will keep it safely locked in a drawer at his office. All writing will be done by hand or by typewriter. There will be no email, no FaceBook, no Twitter, no blog.

But there will be a birthday party for the now-14-year-old, there will be a music tour for the 15-year-old, there will be a trip to Africa, there will be barbecues, there will be teenagers playing music in the basement, there will be dogs chasing after balls, there will be weeding in the garden, and there will be walks in the evening when the weather has cooled.

The more I think of unplugging, the more I love the idea. Maybe some of you will decide to do the same. Until then, I wish you all the very best of summers with family and friends and the pursuit of your passions. And I look forward to catching up with everyone once my kids are back in school this fall. xo

P.S. If you’re in Brooklyn Wednesday, *July 6th* (correction!) at 7pm, I’ll be reading for the LargeHearted Boy Reading Series at WORD bookstore with the amazing Caroline Leavitt. I would be thrilled to see you there!

P.P.S. Many thanks to Suzanne Beecher for featuring my book at Dear Reader. I am beyond honored to be included.

And with that, I am closing the laptop and unplugging.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Mikel K June 15, 2011 at 2:38 pm

God bless you, Susan. Have a great summer. I am sure that you will, now, meet your deadlines!!!!

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Susan Henderson August 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Thanks, Mikel. I have lots of stories to share and look forward to hearing yours.

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Amy Wallen June 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Bon voyage! And thank you for absolutely everything you have done. You’ll be missed.

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Susan Henderson August 22, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Tell us how your summer salons have gone. I miss that whole group we spent the day with at your house.

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Nathalie June 19, 2011 at 10:42 am

That is a great painting on top of your computer!
Enjoy the holiday and yur wonderful family.

I shall soon embark an internet free bout too (just 2 weeks really), while enjoying my time off work. Not by deliberate choice but because there is no internet where I am going. It makes the planning of my daily blogs a little hectic but well worth the cut (in particular from twitter).

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Susan Henderson August 22, 2011 at 5:17 pm

It’s a sticker from gelaskins.com. I have one for my phone, too. They have so many cool choices. Tommy Kane would make a killing if he sold some pieces to them.

I have a giant email folder called SABBATICAL where all my mail has gone since June. I’m scared to look and see what’s there!

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Jenny Milchman June 19, 2011 at 10:55 am

I love this idea and applaud you for embracing it–or even being willing to try. My youngest is off to kindergarten in the fall, and I can’t believe how fast it goes. When we drive cross country this summer I’m going to take a tip from you and be as unconnected as possible. Gulp.

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Susan Henderson August 22, 2011 at 5:15 pm

How did the cross-country drive go? How did the kindergartener like it?

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Billy Bones June 19, 2011 at 11:19 am

Welcome back! We missed you.

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Susan Henderson August 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Missed you, too!

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Marilyn Peake July 7, 2011 at 6:16 am

That is an absolutely awesome idea, Susan! Have a wonderful summer!

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Susan Henderson August 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Thank you! I’m slowly turning the corner back from summer and my sabbatical to work and school. Amazing how rejuvenating it was to be offline for a while, and I feel much more connected to home and neighbors now. (Miss my online world, though.)

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Raima August 10, 2011 at 3:24 pm

I wondered where you were, Susan, but was so behind on my blog-reading that I am only now seeing this — in mid-August! Falling behind in reading other people’s blogs is just one of the symptoms I’ve noticed lately. I also have noticed that I log onto Twitter about once every two days, but have nothing to say; post my whereabouts on Facebook, but have nothing to say; let my own blog slide, because I have nothing to say. I think this is all a symptom of the same thing that happened to you earlier–I am not getting to my writing, despite the fact that I say that’s what I want to do.

So, your post had a huge impression on me, and I’ve decided to follow your lead and unplug until October. Thanks for being, yet again, a huge inspiration and I’ll see you in the fall!

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Susan Henderson August 22, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Raima, I’m so excited to hear what you accomplish during your time off. I think, in no time, you’ll find your voice and your stories again. See you in October!

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rdl August 22, 2011 at 1:37 am

I just finished your book, up from the blue, and i had to tell you how much i enjoyed it – loved it!! I’m already missing Tilly.

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Susan Henderson August 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm

You’ve made my day. Thank you for this.

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Susan Henderson August 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Hey, everyone! I’m back from Africa and I’ll be back on FaceBook and Twitter in about a week. I’ve missed everyone and look forward to hearing all about your summer.

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