Summers tend to reshape my writing life. My husband is a teacher so when school ends in June both he and our 11-year-old son, Tain, are home and my carefully honed routine dissolves within days. That didn’t mean I stopped writing altogether this summer. I just had to accept writing under different conditions. At any given time, for example, Tain, all 85 pounds of him, would come into my office and sit on my lap. Or my husband would come in to inquire what I’m doing or to sit on my chaise and read.
I suppose I could have put a Do Not Disturb sign on my door or communicated a hard and fast “Don’t bother Mama while she’s writing” rule, but I didn’t. These warm and lovely days are fleeting. For all I know this may be the last summer Tain will be able to fit on my lap. And the time my husband spends in my office is brief because, being a musician, he has his own artistic pursuits. I was grateful for impromptu hikes, going out for ice cream, and being available to drive Tain to and from his rehearsals for the show he was in this summer, “The Lion King, JR.” I told Tain as we waited for his school bus I would miss all these things and it’s true.
But I have missed my routine. I am happy to have once again time to think, and time to take better care of myself. After putting Tain on the school bus I exercise, shower and dress, then write. It sounds simple but it’s grounding. And that’s what I need. In her wonderful book Still Writing, the author Dani Shapiro quotes a list of instructions for writers left by the poet Jane Kenyon:
Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.
I have these words on a bulletin board next to me in my office. When I posted them I made peace with the fact that there will be many days, as there were this summer, when following these instructions would be impossible. They do remind me, though, to honor the days when it is possible. Today is such a day. It’s a good day.