by Francine Puckly
Last week I welcomed the summer solstice on a glorious sunny afternoon. I almost didn’t take notice, however, because I was frantically wrapping up my to-do list. A couple days later my kids leapt off the giant yellow heap of metal one final time, screaming for joy and rejoicing in their new-found freedom, while I ran screaming in the opposite direction because I had left sixteen unfinished writing projects on my agenda. How did I not finish? And what on earth did I do with all that time during the school year? It doesn’t matter. School’s out for the summer, and so is my writing.
I have long waved the white flag of surrender when it comes to mixing mass quantities of writing with heavy doses of my children. Despite numerous attempts to create an emulsion that looks like a blended lifestyle to the naked eye, I’m always left with two distinct layers. They do, however, have one common thread: unhappiness. Unproductive days spent at the keyboard due to a multitude of interruptions, and unhappy, caged children pacing, circling, waiting to play. Even as my kids enter the tween and teen years, they still need and/or want my attention. Guilt gnaws at my conscience. We should be biking. We should be playing tennis. We should be sitting on a beach together. Basically, I should be anywhere but in front of my laptop.
So I “take the summer off.” I ceremoniously pack away my thesaurus and dictionary and tidy the notes from the most recent revision of the latest novel. I enter the delusional world of the schedule-less. Weeks stretch out in front of me with little or no agenda. The grind of insanity stops, and peace and harmony step forth in my life once again. Taking the summer off is easy to do as a yet-to-be-published author. It’s also a lie.
Artists never take time off from craft; we just use the hours differently. Mental recharge. Filling the well. Rejuvenation. Restoration. Resuscitation. Call it what you will. Like a fine wine or cheese, our craft benefits from forced aging.
Gone are word count goals. Instead, novels, gardening tombs, and travel guides beckon. Letters from old friends ask me to re-read and answer them while I lounge on a blanket in the backyard. Flowers, ready to bloom, nod and beg me to get rid of the creeping charlie draining the nutrients from their soil. These are the summer pastimes that appear on the horizon. They promise to restore sanity and simplicity in my life. But most importantly, these activities are acceptable to my children. My daughter tags along with me in the yard, pulling weeds and chatting about her most recent social woes at school. My son pulls out a book of his own and sits next to me on a blanket, and we sip piña colada smoothies while devouring the words of others. These tranquil pastimes can be sprinkled amongst their demands for badminton or biking with little or no anguish. We are happy once again.
But it is against my nature to sit still and abandon the tasks on the to-do lists I love to write, so I repeat the words of John Lubbock like a mantra. “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.” I train and retrain myself daily to take the required break I resist.
So if this summer finds you facing a similar dilemma, let us step forth together into the glorious months of July and August. I wish you long, languid days free of appointments and full of ice cream, afternoon naps, rejuvenating words and beautiful images. May we be granted the wisdom to slow down and “be”, for the “doing” will be waiting for us the Tuesday after Labor Day.
For more blogs, check out Francine's group blog on goal setting and other writing topics at www.24carrotwriting.com.