I’m a high school English teacher and love summer break as much as my students do. Summer is for fun. Summer is the time to relax and recharge. Summer is socializing, exercising, and napping. Summer is the time to read more books. Summer is the time to write a book.
Scratch that last one. I need to be realistic. I always mislead myself into thinking I can write the first draft of a book during summer. I have false high hopes of getting large chunks of writing done during my favorite season, but I struggle to make the time and find the right space.
During the school year, I relish the hour of quiet time at my desk each day before classes start. Morning is when my head is fresh and I’m most energetic to write new material. When time permits, I stay after school to write a little more.
You’d think that when school’s out, I’d have all these extra hours to write whenever I want, but it doesn’t work that way. My non-teaching husband works all year, so I’m a stay-at-home summer mom to our two non-driving, active teens, their friends, a dog, and a puppy. The freedom, fun, and firecrackers of the season make it hard for me to stick to schedules, especially one for writing.
Beyond my domestic routine of 70,000 tasks, add swimming pool care, weeding, puppy training, deck painting, and picnic hosting. It’s too hard to ignore the above and prove to anyone (even myself) that I should be writing instead. The household stuff needs to be done, so the writing has to wait.
Although my daughters are old enough to take care of themselves, they still need me for many things, mostly food and rides. Summer is especially busy for squeezing in their various appointments. Chutes and Ladders! I just realized I forgot to take Cara to physical therapy for her finger two hours ago! UGH! Where can I get a secretary, cleaning lady, dog whisperer, and chauffeur, all wrapped up in one person? Oh yeah, I’m her… I need another ME, just a more organized version.
The other writing challenge is that I lack a quiet workspace. I wish I could write without interruption at home, but it doesn’t happen. I can’t expect my girls to take a vow of silence, but it’s like they talk through megaphones. Factor in their heavy footsteps, awful teenage music, singing, fighting, and contagious giggles and you’d think I had ten kids instead of two. Their laughter is beautiful, but not when I’m trying to concentrate. Headphones help to a degree, but I still hear the kids and dogs. I feel their movement. I smell their breath. I sense their presence all around me.
I had to hide in our basement to edit this piece, but Cara found me anyhow and disturbed my muse’s groove. She just wanted to say hello and check in on me. We chatted a bit, then I suggested she go have a fresh asiago bagel with the soft pats of butter she took from the restaurant the night before. She thanked me for going to the bakery but asked If I was trying to get rid of her, and I said, “Absolutely. I’m sorry, but please don’t come back unless you or your bagel catch fire.” I know. I know. I’m lucky my fifteen-year-old even acknowledges me, but sometimes I gotta get away and will use butter bagel bribes to make it happen. FYI, she came back thrice since breakfast. She was NOT on fire.
Louie, our barking sheltie, accompanied Cara to the basement. I told her to take him back up with her, but she said he needed alone time, away from our puppy, Frankie. She had a point, so I let Louie stay.
He was fine until he went bonkers over hearing a garbageman, neighbor, and UPS truck. Then he became a loud broken record, “Arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf!” Geez, that was annoying to type, let alone listen to.
Frankie, my 5:19 AM furry alarm clock, beckons to be freed from her crate when she hears the neighbor leaving for his early job. The piercing octaves Frankie woofs out hurt my teeth. For some reason, no one else hears her but me though.
Each morning (weekends included), I get up to let the dogs out, feed them, let them play, go out again, and bring them in when they bark at a butterfly, chipmunk, or moving cloud. After all that, it’s time for me to choose to:
- Work out.
- Clean the house.
- Go back to bed.
Although choice “A” would be the responsible, author-esque selection, it just never works out for me. I have to do some activity before I can fire away at the keyboard. It would be best to exercise, shower, eat, then write, but the non-schedule of summer makes it too easy to go back to bed.
Why don’t I just take the pressure off myself and give up this writing gig? I don’t do it for fame or fortune. Why do I bother? I guess I write because I need to. If I don’t release the words, I’ll get stuffed, like when overeating at Thanksgiving.
When I don’t write, I feel like I’m trying to hold back a sneeze during allergy season. I can’t stifle these stories, however silly or insignificant they might seem. I have to carve out more time and find a place outside of home to write or I’ll burst.
What’s your creative talent? How do you make time and space to let it flow? Or do you get stuffed?