Are vacations allowed?

kublaihunting
Kublai Khan goes hunting in China

I’m about at the midpoint of writing this children’s book, ONE DAY EVERYWHERE, and predictably I feel like it will never ever be done. It’s a total mess. There are random piles of facts lying around everywhere, scribbled on sheets of paper, in the margins of other sheets, and tumbling around my head. What if I miss something important? Oh my god, yesterday I thought that the panel for China in the 1200s AD was tootling along just fine, Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan, shifting from hemp clothing to cotton production, starting to bind women’s feet, da da da – and then something clicked and I remembered that *Marco Polo* was in China in just the year I was talking about. How sad would it have been to miss that? And if I had missed that, how many other connections are there that I haven’t made… yet?

440px-OpusSpicatumRomaMercatiTraianei
Opus spicatum at Trajan’s Market in Rome, 100s AD

So on the one hand, I feel totally panicked. On the other hand, I know this is a normal stage of writing, not just for me but for everybody (I think! If your writing process is always totally smooth and organized, don’t tell me right now!) and that it comes from anxiety that the book will not be absolutely perfect and fabulous.

potterypavement
Yoruba pavement in Nigeria, about 1000 AD

In a week or two, I’ll accept that the book will not be perfect no matter what I do, and I’ll settle for having some interesting points to make and explaining them as clearly as I can. Really, in the back of my mind I can already see some cool connections beginning to emerge, though some of those ideas also suggest new areas I need to research – and quickly! Did anyone besides the people of Chad make floors out of broken potsherds placed vertically? Oh, that’s a lot like opus spicatum – the Romans used it to make floors in Trajan’s Market! Cool!

Meanwhile, it’s President’s Day weekend, so the kid has two days off school. We’re driving six hours this afternoon to visit his grandparents, which means I’ll be spending four days with my in-laws and my teenager. Right now, this just feels like a horrendous mistake, taking four days off work to go snowshoeing and skiing and sit around talking. But there’s a reason the kid has the holiday, right? Because we all need holidays? I’ll think better after some time in the woods. I won’t feel so panicky after I’ve spent a day talking to my elders. I’ll put things in perspective, see some friends, maybe go dancing.

snow-in-winter-ithaca-new-york-mingqi-ge
Ithaca’s prettier in the winter than in the summer, if that’s possible.


And actually, I can bring all the work with me, so probably I will spend a lot of that time working anyway, letting my mother-in-law think I’m the kind of person who sleeps in until ten and takes naps. She doesn’t have internet, so maybe I’ll get these book reviews done. Does it count as not having internet if I know I can tether through my phone? Does it count as a vacation if I get the book reviews done?

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