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.


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: With Apologies to L’Oreal

by Lisa Scottoline

I’m sweltering because I have low self-esteem.

That’s what I figured out.

Otherwise I can’t explain my own dumb behavior.

This might be a new low, because usually I can explain my dumb behavior. Like if someone says, do you want to get married, I always say, Yes!

Dumb, but I know why.

Temporary insanity.

This time, I don’t, and the stakes are much higher. We’re talking air conditioning.

We begin when summer started, in earnest. The heat wave rolled in with temperatures of ninety degrees, but for some reason, I don’t turn on the air conditioning. One part of my house has central air, and it happens to be where the family room and my office are, but still I can’t bring myself to turn it on. By habit, I try not to turn on the air conditioning unless I absolutely have to.


I tough it out. It’s warm but not unbearable. I drink lots of iced drinks and wear tank tops and shorts. I tell myself I feel cool, even though the dogs pant and flop listlessly on the floor, flat as area rugs.

The cats don’t mince words. They walk around with signs that read: TURN ON THE AC, DUMMY.

I know if I had a window air conditioner, I’d feel differently. Then I would turn it on and it would cool down the one room I was in and nothing else. But central air has to cool the family room, kitchen, and office – all for one person.


When Daughter Francesca lived home, I would turn it on all the time. It makes sense, for two people.

But for one?


I sweat as I type away, and I’m on deadline, running out of steam. Still I think if I could just hang in a little longer, I could get through another day. Partly it’s the money, because the bill is so high, but it was high for two people too, so that can’t be the real reason. It’s not the money, but it seems wasteful.

For me alone.

Do you remember the commercial for L’Oreal haircolor, where the tagline said, Because you’re worth it?

I’ll explain, for those under seventy years old.

The idea was that L’Oreal was the most expensive of the at-home hair color kits, costing, if I remember correctly, twelve bucks a box.

Yes, there was a time when things cost twelve dollars.

And yes, there was a time when I did my own haircolor, and it looked it. I was a Nice N’ Easy fan, which went for six bucks and was neither nice nor easy.

They also called it hair painting, and we all know what a lousy painter I am. I’m the girl who paints around the pictures on the wall, so you can imagine what my roots looked like.


By the way, L’Oreal doesn’t use that tagline anymore, though its website asks, What Does Your Haircolor Say About You?

Which, I realized, is a more tactful way of saying, WHY DON’T YOU TURN ON THE AC, DUMMY?

I didn’t spring for the L’Oreal, and frankly, I don’t turn on the air conditioning because, at some, level, I don’t feel worth it.



Advocate of strong, independent women everywhere? Writer of books featuring same? Could I really have self-esteem that low?


I don’t know the answer, and I don’t want to know, but I turned on the air conditioning immediately, just to prove it to myself that I wasn’t a loser.

The dogs thanked me.

The cats didn’t.

They knew they were worth it, all along.

Copyright © Lisa Scottoline