Time and materials

I was on the phone with Midwest Writer the other day, telling her how after a few weeks of writing that felt like scratching uselessly at the surface of the book with an unbent paperclip, ’round about mid-July something clicked and I started to be able to work again in a rhythm that felt familiar, where I go to the desk with something in mind and rise up again with something done and something to think about, then go back again.  The bad news, I said, was that it took nearly a month to find that rhythm.  And though surely grief had something to do with it this time, last year wasn’t that different–I had to come out of the rhythms of the school year, the habitual expectation of looming deadlines and packed to-do lists.  “So, are you making a list?” she asked, and for a moment I didn’t understand–“A to-do list?”  “No,” she explained, “a list for next year, so you remember what you need, what you’ve figured out this summer.”

That Midwest Writer, such a smart cookie.  Okay, here’s what I know so far:

  • It takes me time to adjust.  It’s probably not reasonable to expect that the first morning of summer break will bring a whole new mindset.  The new mindset takes time to creep in.
  • For at least one more year, the Snork Maiden will be in school for at least a week longer than I am.  I’ve been using that week to get organized and tie up the loose ends of the school year, but I haven’t been very efficient about it because I’m tired.  Next year, if Stubb is not away, I might consider going away for a few days, just to see whether that will reset my system.
  • The time has come, I think, to get a cleaning service, so that the house doesn’t plunge into such incredible chaos that I end up spending part of my break beating back the forces of disorder, not even getting to the point of doing repairs or making improvements.  I don’t aspire for my home to be a showplace, but I would like it to be a peaceful environment.
  • Although I want the Snork Maiden to know the joys of unscheduled summer time, I need her to have some scheduled activities so that I have predictable periods of solitude at home.  Ideal would be a couple of weeks of day camp here, a couple of weeks of art camp there, with a couple of weeks in between just to be at home, read, swim, and see friends. 
  • I had a big chunk of administrative work for NLNRU and my conference, and while I was batting at those things with my furry paws, I was also fantasizing that if they didn’t exist, I would be able to write like crazy!  But I don’t think this is true.  The school year has a long tail–loose ends to tie up, emails to write, last-minute recommendation letters, and so on.  I don’t think having some administrative projects still running was in itself a real problem.

I’ll try to revisit this list at summer’s end, and see whether these things still seem true, and whether there is anything else.

Meanwhile, on a whim I dragged my 25-year-old electronic Royal Alpha 2015 typewriter out of the closet and set it up.  (Because I’m a packrat, I have three or four new-in-box ribbon cartridges for it, too.)  I am doing some writing on it, and I’m finding this wonderfully freeing.  (I was inspired by reading about WriteRoom and other “distraction-free” word processing programs.)  The sounds of it–the hum, the clickety-clackety of the keys, the “ding” and the whoosh of the carriage–and even the smell of it are very evocative of the years in which I began seriously to write.  (“Time machine!” said FLS, and of course, she’s right.)

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pym Fan on July 31, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Speaking of typewriters, did you notice the impressive number of cool old typewriters in the latest Harry Potter movie? (One especially nice one at Snape’s house, LOTS in Mr. Weasley’s collection of muggle artifacts.)


  2. Posted by meansomething on August 3, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I did, although not until the third viewing. (Yes, the SM and I have seen it three times.) I understand what Mr. Weasley is doing with all those typewriters, but Snape?


  3. […] doing, these first two weeks of the new summer schedule?  Well, quite a lot has been the same as last year, actually: the long tail of the school year, the Snork Maiden finishing up her school year, […]


  4. […] deserve time to write and the conditions I need to get my work done.  Among other things, I deserve to spend two weeks at a writers’ […]


  5. […] then graduation. A final day of meetings, and then we’re launched into summer, except for the long tail of the school […]


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