I'm on the coast of Maine this week, on vacation.
The Wi-Fi password at the only restaurant in town is PUTDOWNTHEPHONETALKTOYOURFAMILY. (Not kidding.)
A piece in the NY Times calls what I'm doing this week "fallow time." Regular downtime is a part of creative life—not apart from it, the Times says.
"Fallow time is necessary to grow everything from actual crops to figurative ones"—like writing, like any work, says writer Bonnie Tsui. "We need to rest, to read, to reconnect. It is the invisible labor that makes creative life possible."
Said another way: we are doing something important when we are doing nothing at all important.
It's not just nice to park your peach 🍑 on a beach; it's necessary. That's true whether you grow wheat grass or watercress or white papers.
We need to slow down sometimes so we can speed up at other times.
* * *
I wrote a version of that ^^ in 2019 over this same holiday weekend of July 4th, which is Independence Day here in the US.
We were so young. So naive. So blissfully unaware of how badly we were about to be sideswiped by... well, everything. So totally unconscious of how on edge we'd be here in 2022.
Rereading my 2019 letter to you... I need to correct one thing: That only restaurant in town closed a year ago. There's a pizza place now, but the Wi-Fi password is gone. (A loss in more way than one.)
I would also not call downtime "invisible labor"—especially when here in 2022 many of us have been *truly* laboring invisibly—balancing work, worry, grief, angry politics, gutting policies, economic fears, rage, mixed messages... and yet, also... just trying to live life. Must call the pest company about the ants. Garden needs weeding. Where can I rent a margarita machine? Just keep swimming.
For me personally, the last few months have been a slog. (Writing a book
means zero down time.)
* * *
Maybe you, too, are roasting marshmallows over a burnout bonfire?
Maybe you, too, start to envy those who come home at the end of a day and don't think about work at all...?
Does the barista come home and think about oat milk lattes? Does the guy working the tollbooth go home and think about correct change? What would that be like—to leave work at work?
Fallow Time in 2019 felt like a simple vacation.
In 2022, it feels like salvation.
* * *
So I'm reminding you again of what I said in 2019 and again last year: Give yourself some Fallow Time this season.
Read. Rest. Reconnect with you. PUTDOWNYOURPHONEANDTALKTOYOURFAMILY. (Keep its spirit alive!)
I hope you are doing nothing much at all.
Yet at the same time doing what we all need.
* * *
STANDOUT SENTENCE OF THE WEEK
Writing that deserves a slow clap.
Usually we use this space to celebrate great marketing writing. But this is Fallow Time, friend! So today let's give the floor to my favorite author (and Maine resident), E.B. White.
In a 1962 letter to a friend, E.B. wrote:
The next grammar book I bring out I want to tell how to end a sentence with five prepositions.
A father of a little boy goes upstairs after supper to read to his son, but he brings the wrong book. The boy says, "What did you bring that book that I don't want to be read to out of up for?"
E.B. White wrote Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Elements of Style at the spare little Maine seaside writer's cabin pictured in the header of this newsletter. I took the photo when I visited the property a few years ago.
Here's a shot of the inside of the cabin, featuring my beloved little dog Abby (RIP).