It’s July 1st and already I feel the apathy creeping in.
In previous summers, between June and September, I had a legitimate excuse for my lack of writing progress. I was a teacher who worked hard during the school year.
A teacher who had young kids.
My time belonged to others. And after ten months in the classroom, summers meant working full-time at motherhood. I invited friends over and arranged playdates. Beach days and barbeques. There was a surplus of activity and boredom. Of laundry and snacks.
But always in the back of my mind, this:
I’m not writing. I cannot write.
Because for me, writing fiction requires diving headlong into the waters. I can’t craft a setting without traveling there in my head. Nor can I cultivate dialogue without adopting the tongues of my characters.
“What are we doing today?” my children would ask, draped across the family room couch.
We are shutting the laptop down, I thought. Shut. It. Down.
Could I have told them Go play outside or Figure it out for yourself?
Of course. At times I did. And I respect parents who do it often. Or who think it’s better.
Who have no choice.
But would my kids’ (almost certainly) brief efforts afford me enough time to craft a setting? To adopt a tongue?
The voice inside me whispered:
The days they’ll seek you out for fun are limited.
My goal became parenting first. Writing later.
Recently I read this article (it was impossible to miss, such a nerve did it strike). The author and I occupy opposite ends of the childrearing spectrum, but I too feel the martyrdom. I question my own roles.
Mother. Writer. Monster. Maid. It’s hard not to wonder if we’re getting the balance right.
But for me, above all else, looms the temporariness of our current status. So I willingly make sacrifices and (unlike the author) I am certain I’d do it again. Over and over.
I owe it to myself, to family and friends and supporters who’ve been cheering for me—who will cheer for me always—not to give up.
I’m a writer. A writer writes.
My kids are older. They no longer look to me for plans, transportation, inspiration. They rarely say I’M BORED and if they do, it’s on them. Not me.
So what’s my excuse for the summer’s creeping apathy? Is it habit? Does my creativity automatically freeze after so many Junes and Julys without a formal work schedule?
Maybe my brain needs a break. By this date last year, I’d signed a contract for Letters for Scarlet and was fully invested in the last, best rewrite. I suddenly realized THESE ARE THE SENTENCES people would read. The real pages they’d turn. Contemplate. Judge.
So I drove myself hard through the fall then spent the spring promoting my newly launched book. In June, I ushered my oldest child through high school graduation. Now I’m preparing him to leave for college. Preparing myself for him to be gone.
Maybe I’m scared of getting into the writer’s groove that finds me nodding and yeah-ing at my family without listening.
Maybe I’m afraid I’ve lost my magic.
Maybe it’s all of this. The break. The groove. The magic.
I want my words back.
I need them.
This is not selfish. This is work.
Which is why I’ve decided to do it again. My writing experiment. The one that works for me.
Starting today, ten minutes a day, every day throughout July. Even though we have family plans. Even though I’ll be out of town more than once. Even though my children are almost grown. Even though I may nod and yeah at them once in a while.
Just ten minutes.
A small compromise.
I’m a writer, after all.
And writers write.
Either way, have a HAPPY SUMMER. Whatever that means to you.