Dispatches from Summer

20150705_120023 I was dropping off the kids at day care a few weeks ago when another parent passed me in the hall. She commented that she envied me because I could leave the kids and then not work all day. A few feeble protests rose in my throat but I squashed them. She’s right. I drop off the kids and instead of going to the office (which is what I do 9 months out of the year), I go home.

So what do I do all day?

Well, I write a bunch. I’m steadily working through rewrites of my YA fantasy novel. I’m sending a draft of the other YA novel to beta readers. I’m taking an online writing class, I meet with my writing group, and I work on some short pieces. I’m tossing a few essay ideas around, as well.

Then I do all the other things people do – I plan meals and go for walks and do yoga and read and clean out the fridge. I pull weeds in the garden, I obsess over the size of the zucchini and I endlessly pick raspberries. I marvel at how I ever get any of this done during my “regular” work year.

And I deal with the tension that arises between having time to write and feeling like every second of time should be spent writing. This is the script my mind repeats: Since I’m not working in the library for three months, I should spend every possible second writing, so that I can make the most of this time.

As you can imagine, this is not a recipe for either good writing or general mental wellbeing. I’ve written about my complex relationship with time before. I never quite feel like I have enough, but then when I have more, I feel crushed by the weight of expectation.

Before this spins into all-out woe-is-me obnoxious navel gazing, I did have a few insights on a walk the other day. Mainly this: more work is not necessarily better work. In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about how the well runs dry when it comes to creative work. A writer can have two or three days of incredible productivity, with ideas bursting from the seams and arranging themselves in perfect order on the page. Then she sits down the next day, expecting to dive right into the work again and…nothing. Crickets. The well has run dry.

Cameron provides several wonderful techniques for filling the well again, usually involving leaving the page for a bit. For me the key is simply noting when my reservoirs of inspiration and creativity have hit a glitch. They need a rest and so do I. So I take some time to not write, even though I have to drag myself kicking and screaming from the keyboard, because I know it will be better in the long run.

Do I love it? Nope. I had a rough writing day yesterday and I’m still mad about it. I was cranky all day because the scene didn’t go well, and even when I had an insight into how to fix the scene, I’m still not sure it’s right. And the reason I’m blogging instead of reworking the scene is that I’m reluctant to face the page again. It seems too hard.

Going back, of course, is the trick. Well, it can’t get any worse (I’m lying, of course it can get worse), so back to the page it is! Cheers.

 

2 thoughts on “Dispatches from Summer

  1. This, exactly: “I never quite feel like I have enough, but then when I have more, I feel crushed by the weight of expectation.” I love this sentence – and I think it perfectly captures what so many people feel about time. I remember laughing at my parents when they’d wake up so early on Saturdays and Sundays – and they’d tell me I’d wasted half my day by sleeping in until 9 (when they dragged me out of bed). But now? With the weight of the adult world on my shoulders? I totally get it. And when I don’t accomplish all I think I should, that weight of the (unmet) expectations comes crashing down upon me. Saturdays and Sundays especially 🙂

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    • So glad I’m not the only one! Growing up sucks sometimes. 🙂 My parents just moved out of my childhood home and I was reminiscing about it and getting homesick. Then I realized part of the homesickness was for a time when I didn’t have all of those adult expectations and lengthy to-do lists. Maybe it gets easier in retirement?… 🙂 (Apologies for not responding sooner to this – turns out my email thought notifications from wordpress was junk…and also turns out I don’t visit my blog as much as I should…)

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