Summer is the devil

As a person involved in university education, I tend to have wide-open summers. There is little structure and a tremendous amount of flexible time. Most people I know would love to have this problem. Of course, it should be said, that today was the first pay-day I’ve had since July, so there is a trade-off.
I hate summers, and not just because of heat. Summer is a nebulous time of strange freedoms, but in freedom there is chaos. And chaos is the writer’s greatest enemy, his or her kryptonite.
In the temptation to sleep in, catch up on distant friendships, do all those little nagging projects, and take road trips, there can be the illusion of having time. The reality is that time doesn’t just open up. Rather, it gets less structured until one finds nothing but missed opportunities and guilt. Somehow, with great freedom comes great idling.
Yes, for me summer involved completing my degree and it isn’t that I didn’t write; I read and wrote more than I care to think about. But after my brain recovered, my intention of finishing 50,000 words seemed to vanish. The kids were around. The house needed work. Friends visited. We made trips to Seattle, trips to Yakima, trips to escape the heat. Then it was time to prepare for the new school year, time to get school supplies, time to rush those last-minute dinners and visits.
The school year is in swing and I don’t appear to have a free minute. But, for whatever reason, in the midst of a highly scheduled week, routines, and obligations –including more teaching and a new part-time job — I’m ready to write again.
Perhaps this is because discipline is at the heart of writing. In the summer — or those blocks of “free time” — discipline is harder to come by. In a scheduled life, writing time is just another scheduled item. It’s just another discipline in a series of disciplines.
So, if you’re like me, embrace routine. Embrace order and busyness. And start planning on how you’re going to keep that discipline and structure when you sell your Grisham-pay-day novel.


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