Doing Nothing? Nothing Doing.

By Lisa Scottoline

I need a vacation.

From my staycation.

Let me explain.

I love my job, but as filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan has said, “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”

Kinda true.

And if you write books, you have a book on your brain every day until you write The End.

Yesterday, I wrote The End.

In other words, I finished my homework.

Yay!

I handed in my 36th novel, a domestic thriller entitled THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DEVLINS.

So I find myself free at the end of August, when a smarter person would’ve planned a vacation.

So I’m having a staycation.

Which I’m actually excited about.

The truth about me is that I love being home.

Plus it’s hot and I’m lucky enough to have a pool.

So I brought five books out to the pool, which is my idea of an excellent time.

Why five?

I can’t decide which one to read first.

I won’t know until I get there.

From the house to the backyard, I could change my mind.

For a plane flight, I pack four books.

For a train trip, three.

And in my bathroom, I have a bookshelf.

Please tell me I’m not alone.

I didn’t mean in the bathroom, I mean in the reading habits.

Meanwhile I’m never alone in the bathroom.

I have three dogs.

One will usually follow me in.

The second or third wait outside the door.

They can’t decide which goes in until they get there, either.

Anyway I have a bunch of research books to read for the book I’m about to start writing after my staycation is over.

So I climb in the pool and do what I always do, which is get out the float, pick a book, and put it on the float next to a notepad and pen.

It’s a floating office.

Obviously designed by a person who has no idea how to do nothing.

That’s what I thought when I looked at it with new eyes, because it was supposed to be my staycation.

And technically, research reading is work.

Which is when I realized that doing nothing is harder than it looks.

In fact, it’s work.

I’m not sure how many people can actually do nothing, especially women.

We’re always doing something, and usually we’re doing many things at once, so to stop all of a sudden seems well, like, nothing.

It’s not like I’m so superproductive all the time, but I’m wondering if I’m multitasking too much. And maybe it’s not so great?

For example, if I’m going to have a long phone call, I’ll start walking the dogs. Some days I’m on the phone so much that the dogs are exhausted.

They’re like, get off the phone.

Also, don’t you have to go to the bathroom?

I used to get my phone calls done in the car, but I’m on a phone diet in the car.

I’m hoping it will be more successful than my other diets.

At least I won’t eat my phone.

Anyway to return to point, I resolved to do something else in the pool.

Then I remembered I don’t know how to swim.

But I noticed the water had a lot of bugs on the surface, and there was a dead caterpillar curled up on the bottom, and I realized the pool needs cleaning.

That’s not officially work, is it?

If you can do it in a bathing suit, it’s not work.

Unless you’re a model, and I don’t qualify.

So I get out, find the skimmer, and get busy.

No dead bug escapes my net, and I even save a frog, which is my reward.

I hate when my pool kills things.

I even have fake lilypads around the side so the frogs can get out, but instead they keep swimming around.

They don’t like doing nothing either.

How do you do nothing?

Stare into space?

Eventually you know you’re going to think about Bradley Cooper.

Then you’re doing something.

At least in your mind.

So I moved the books off the float, climbed on, and closed my eyes.

Floating away on a dream.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2023

Column Classic: You Can’t Touch This

By Lisa Scottoline

Here’s what happened to me, last weekend. I’d just finished the draft of my next book, which left me with nothing to do and a residual feeling that I should still be productive. I’d been working on the same book for a year, and even so, wasn’t ready for it to end, even after I’d typed:

The End.

Please tell me this happens to you, no matter what you do. That once you’ve been working full-tilt, it’s hard to bring it to an abrupt halt. It’s not that those of us similarly afflicted are Type A, because we’re too nice for that. I prefer to think of us as adorable cartoon characters like Wile E. Coyote, who keep running in the air after there’s no more cliff.

Meep meep!

Either way, when I finally finished working, I noticed some scuffmarks on the walls of my entrance hall and I couldn’t forget them. I kept looking at them, and though I wanted to relax, sitting down in my favorite chair to read a book, the scuffmarks stayed in the back of my mind. I remember when the back of my mind used to be occupied by men, but in recent years, they’ve have been replaced by carbohydrates.

And, now, scuffmarks.

Five scuffmarks in all, covering the wall in the entrance hall, and God knows how they got there. They bugged me, though I’d never noticed them before. It struck me that scuffmarks shouldn’t be the first thing people see when they walk into my house, even though nobody is walking into my house.

And under the scuffmarks, I noticed a line of paw prints. You don’t have to be a mystery writer to know how they got there. Little Tony, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who thinks he’s Little Tony Soprano, protects me by resting his dirty mitts on the wall and barking at the window. And whenever I leave the house, Peach, my other Cavalier, body-slams the door.

Plus I detected a generalized griminess around the baseboards that I couldn’t ignore. That would be from Ruby The Crazy Corgi, who rolls against the wall like a hotdog on a rotisserie.

I should have been picking up the nice thick book I’d wanted to read. It was going to be my reward for the nice thick book I’d just written.

That, and lots of carbohydrates.

But no, instead I went to the kitchen cabinet and grabbed the spray Fantastik and a roll of paper towels. I got busy cleaning the entrance hall and the baseboards, to no avail. The scuffmarks still looked grimy and dirty, and now, wet.

I realized that the entrance hall hadn’t been painted in five years.

An hour later, I had a new plastic drop cloth on the floor, a girl-size roller dripping with fresh latex, and a slim paintbrush for getting in the comers. I started painting the entrance hall and blasted music on the iPod. I sang while I worked, and the dogs watched, all of us happy. I was happy because painting is more fun than cleaning, and the dogs were happy because they had a whole new wall to mess up.

I finished painting the entrance hall, and it looked so great and smelled fresh and new.

But then I noticed more scuffmarks in the family room.

And there were still songs left on the iPod.

So I got busy in the family room, which was the same color, called Beethoven. Though it was Sinatra on the iPod.

A few hours later, I had finished painting the family room, or at least as far up each wall I could reach, making do-it-yourself wainscoting. Also I didn’t bother moving the pictures and painted around them, which saved a lot of time.

Still everything blended okay, and it all looked so terrific.

And since I had plenty of Tony Bennett left, I went on a scuffmark hunt upstairs, where there was more Beethoven. I found a ton of scuffmarks in the second floor hallway, and I painted it through most of the night and the next day, after the dogs had fallen asleep and the iPod had segued into old MC Hammer.

Yes, I was Too Legit To Quit.

And by the end of the weekend, I had a freshly painted house.

And I knew I was Type A.

The End.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: Color Me Mine

By Lisa Scottoline

I’m two months from getting the house painted, but I’m already fantasizing about paint colors. If the real estate classifieds are porn, paint chips are a kinky subculture, the S & M of home décor.

The pain is exquisite.

My fantasies began when my painter dropped off a big black case that contained huge books of paint chips. I’m not dumb, I’ve seen the paint chips that you get from Home Depot, but I’ve never seen one of these books. Each one weighs about three pounds, and the paint chips are bolted together with a single fastener, so you can slide the chips out to make a circle, like a merry-go-round of color. The painter gave me three books, each with hundreds of pages, and each page has seven paint chips. By my calculation, this equals four billion eleventy-seven gillion different colors.

It hurts so good.

In no time, I’m sliding the paint chips out in a circle, the tangerines overlapping the marigolds, the cobalts eclipsing the limes, the pinks complementing the purples, all the colors fanning out from the center, making a 360° fountain of acrylic excitement.

I had no idea what color I wanted to paint the house, but all of a sudden, the books opened up a spectrograph of chromatic possibilities. The paint chips whirled together like spin art on the boardwalk, and all the colors of the rainbow were mine. I flashed on a childhood filled with Crayola crayons, from the starter eight to the big-girl double-layers of sixty-four. I thought of old-fashioned tins of watercolor paints, with rectangular wells for dirty water. I could paint the house any color I wanted, and the thought made me giddy.

There was nobody around to exercise good judgment. No saner head to prevail.

Yippee!

I should point out that there is precedent for my temporary color insanity. After my second divorce, I painted my kitchen the color of vitamin C, merely because nobody could stop me.

So I gazed at the paint chips and imagined golden shutters against the tan fieldstone of the house. Creamy ivory clapboard in the sunshine. Colonial molding painted classy forest green. Fascia the gentle hue of daffodils. I spent hours looking at the colors in all different kinds of light and made lists of the letters and numbers on each paint chip, a cryptic code that added to its tantalizing mystery. For example, Corinthian White was OC-111.  I looked in vain for the meaning of OC, but the book kept its secrets.

I even found myself carried away by the names of the colors, some of which were delicious. I imagined shutters of Sharp Cheddar (2017-20). I considered doing the trim in Pale Celery (OC-114) and Carrot Stick (2016-30), low-carb colors. I could finish my molding in Peach Sorbet (2015-40), which was like eating windowsills for dessert.

Some color names struck an emotional chord, as in True Blue (2066-50), and others were adorable, like Tricycle Red (2000-20). Growing up, I had a red tricycle and a red wagon. I looked for a color named Red Wagon, but there was none. I made a mental note to email Benjamin Moore.

Still other names made me think of vacations – Caribbean Coast (2065-60), South Beach (2043-50), and Blue Wave (2065-50). But Asbury Sand (2156-40) didn’t look any different from Serengeti Sand (2164-40), and it’s probably easier to get a hotel in Jersey.

I was bothered by the names that made no sense. What’s a Jeweled Peach (2013-30)? Or Smoke Embers (AC-28)? There’s no such thing as smoke embers. Smoke comes from embers. Anyway, it was a Boring Gray. And between us, Adobe Dust (2175-40) looks suspiciously like the dirt under my bed, which I call Philadelphia Dust

Still other color names were a little precious. Roasted Sesame Seed (2160-40) isn’t a color, it’s a recipe. Mantis Green (2033-60) is just plain creepy. Dollar Bill Green (2050-30) is for pimps only.

Some color names confused me. Nantucket Gray (HC-111) is green. Gypsy Love (2085-30) is maroon, which has nothing to do with either Gypsies or Love. Soft Cranberry (2094-40), which should be maroon, is beige. And Milkyway (OC-110) is white like milk, not brown like the candy or black like the galaxy.

Kelp Forest Green (2043-30) is distinctly unhelpful. Shore House Green (2047-50) begs the question. Cherokee Brick (2082-30) is historically inaccurate. Distant Gray (2124-70) is emotionally unavailable. Amber Waves (2159-40) panders in an election year. There was no Purple Mountains Majesty.

Other names reveal that whoever thought them up was drunk. There is no other explanation for Perky Peach (2012-50), Springy Peach (2011-60), or Limesickle (2145-50). Maybe they were drinking Moonshine (2140-60).

By the end, I was supersaturated with color, hues, and tints, dizzy from my myriad paint fantasies. But at least I found the perfect color for the house.

White.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline