Take a Break. Clear Your Head.

you, the columnist

By Dave Lieber
Dallas Morning News columnist

Karen and Dave Lieber enjoy a whale-watching excursion during a Hawaiian vacation.

Karen and Dave Lieber enjoy a whale-watching excursion during a Hawaiian vacation.

One hard rule I always follow — until now — is that I never tell readers of my column anything about myself that would seem to put me above them.

I don’t ever want to brag — or come off that way.

Once I heard a writer mention his 700 series BMW. That meant he wasn’t like me. I drive a 13-year-old car with 280,000 miles on it. That one little unnecessary detail derailed any emotional bonding he was trying to build. I don’t relate to one-percenters.

As an example, I’ve never mentioned in public — until now — that I have a swimming pool, for instance, because many Texans aren’t lucky enough to have such a wonderful way to beat the heat.

That’s why I feel especially squeamish about the next four words I am about to share only with you:

I went to Hawaii.

No, no. I’m not saying that to brag. I’m saying that only to relate it to a subject that I know you, the columnist, are as interested as I am.

Stoking the creative process.

Karen and I planned it on the cheap. Virgin America is locked in a price war with American Airlines. So Virgin tickets were half the cost of American’s. Plus, if you stay, as we did, at the Airport Marriott in Maui, you don’t pay all those excessive “resort” fees.

Before we left, Karen kept telling me, “You’re going to clear your head. When you come back you’ll feel renewed.” She said it a lot.

We were there a week. I’m not much of a beach person. But I enjoyed driving around the island, watching the whales come up for air and learning about the historic culture of Maui.

Did you know, for instance, that the last remaining sugar plantation in Hawaii is closing? That’s 675 jobs on Maui. The reason? Mexico canceled its regular sugar order.

I knew nothing about sugar, but after an hour in the Sugar Museum, I felt sweet on the subject. (Sorry.)

Where most tourists go off to activities such as diving or hiking, I dragged Karen to a civic auditorium to hear the mayor of Maui deliver his annual State of the County Address on live television. We were the only tourists in an auditorium filled with Maui’s elite. I learned a lot about a world quite different than mine.

My point is this: I haven’t had a pure do-nothing vacation in years. Every time I go away, it’s for work of some type. This was different.

My wife is right. (As always). My head is clear. Getting away is crucial to the creative process. I let that slide.

What are you planning to do this summer for yourself to clear your head?

If you don’t have a good answer, then now you know why I mention this.

In a surprise, it turned out to be the best investment I could make for my creative business.


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Dave Lieber is The Watchdog investigative columnist for The Dallas Morning News. DaveLieber.org is his website. On Twitter he’s @DaveLieber.

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This piece first was published in the May 2016 issue of The Columnist, the monthly membership newsletter of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

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