I always have lots of plans for summer writing. Stacks of new notebooks and the only pens I can write with. A couple of free professional development writing opportunities that should keep me in writing ideas and inspirations (#100DOSW18, Teachers Write). A lack of other obligations and time commitments that makes writing sound appealing and indulgent.
But then….. it just doesn’t happen. It’s not unusual to go back to school in August, open my notebook on the first day in my Composition class, and find that the last date I wrote was sometime back in June. Or even May.
I’ve come to believe I need a few fallow periods during the year, times of rest before and after productivity. I used to feel like a bad writer, or not a writer at all, for taking unscheduled time off. Why didn’t I want to write? How could I–seemingly overnight–lose a daily habit I’d worked so hard to build?
But now I think it’s just part of my process, part of the shape of my year. I used to worry during these fallow periods that I was done, maybe I’d never write again, but now I trust–more or less–that the desire to write will return. I’ll pick up my notebook to write again and it will be just like picking up with an old friend I haven’t seen in awhile.
A few nights ago, after the TV was turned off and I’d read for a few minutes to my son and he had fallen asleep on the couch, I crept out to the porch with my cats and my notebook and settled into a chair. I suddenly felt like writing again.
Over a month had passed between entries. I was a bit sad to think of all that I hadn’t captured in my notebook during that month. The trees I ogled in Balboa Park. The research on lorikeets and okapi and servals and tapirs from interests sparked by the San Diego Zoo. The sunrises and sunsets I didn’t describe. The beauty of Utah I didn’t note. The stories of cats at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary I wanted to remember. The teaching plans I made driving for 21 hours there and 21 hours back.
But that was gone, and this was now. Where to start after such a long lay-off? Where I always start, right here in this moment.
There’s a thunderstorm predicted and a flash food warning. I am sitting on the porch, which I cleaned and reorganized today, and the breeze is just beginning to stir the air and there is lightning behind me that occasionally illuminates the page.
I have sat on the porch in the dark for twenty or thirty minutes, capturing my day in lists of 10 things, a blog structure I occasionally use and always love reading. I’ve never used it in a notebook before, and I don’t know why. I often give myself length or time challenges–write for ten minutes, write three pages–in my notebook, but I’ve never given myself a number of thoughts or observations I need to have. One night, it took nearly an hour to come up with 10 things. Last night, it took barely 10 minutes.
The weather and cats and yoga and reading and the fading light that I can’t see the page by are always good for at least five observations. Entries in the lists of 10 range from one line (about a glorious pile of new library books) to four pages (about Sara Ahmed’s book, Being the Change, which I am hoping to turn into a blog post for final #cyberPD reflections).
The handwriting is hard to read when I open the book in the light. If I’m interrupted and lose my place, I sometimes have to simply turn the page and start fresh to avoid writing over a line I’ve already written. I interrupt myself often to watch the clouds cross the moon or the leaves pick up the wind or a person walk a dog or the lights flicker in the window across the street or the cats leap on a toy or each other.
When I get to 10, I close my notebook and go inside to read before bed. (This week, Amor Towles’s wonderful novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, which I would like to read forever.)