Summertime is in full swing around here. Though the longest day of the year is behind us, it feels like the season is just hitting its stride. The kids have only been out of school for a couple of weeks, so we’re still settling into the new routine (or, should I say, “un-routine?”) of structureless mornings, spur-of-the-moment events and outings, and late nights. While our friends on the other side of the world are preparing for winter, here the beach is calling, making it harder and harder to consistently keep my butt in the chair.
It’s an annual challenge to reconcile my daughter’s sense of summer freedom with my reality of summertime work. These are the months when my ability to focus is repeatedly put to the test. I do my best to be responsible, but sometimes the right thing to do is to forget the focus and just get outside.
Take yesterday morning. Though I had a half a day’s worth of work to do (and would usually have tried to get it done earlier rather than later), I abandoned my desk and instead enjoyed a leisurely and mostly aimless morning with my daughter. We walked to the local coffee shop where we read and wrote while sipping our respective drinks – a cinnamon chai for me and a raspberry fizz soda for her. We watched from our window table as a mom in an oversize SUV mangled her parallel parking job, and then we cooed over the two small dogs the woman and her daughter left in the car – a Maltipoo and a small King Charles Spaniel. When mom and daughter passed by on their way out, we asked if we could meet their dogs and wound up having a lovely conversation and learning all about the personalities of the two pooches.
Leaving the coffee shop, we headed toward the local farmers’ market, but wound up spending nearly a half hour on the bridge that spans the river near an in-town dam. Initially, we paused to look for turtles sunning themselves on the rocks below; but our stay was prolonged when we ran into a couple we know and got to talking about her new job and what we were all doing for the fourth and so on. Together, the four of us scanned the shallows, pointing out painted turtles, snappers, and schools of tiny fish. After they left, we lingered, and struck up a conversation with a couple of guys who had spotted a massive snapping turtle on the other side of the bridge. We all watched, fascinated, as this prehistoric-looking beast chased a smaller one of its kind through a maze of algae-covered rocks in an amphibian version of a high-speed car chase.
At the farmers’ market, we ran into more people we knew and engaged in that most delightful of pastimes – friendly small talk. We patted dogs and returned kicked balls to small children. My daughter got a henna tattoo of a crow in a tree. I bought a couple butterfly-friendly plants for the yard. A friend promised to bring some cuttings from her garden. We listened to some local folk musicians and relaxed in the shade.
My point is this – even writers need a break, and the ironic thing is that often when you give yourself a break, you wind up getting inspired. This morning’s walk, for instance, wasn’t just a lovely outing and a chance to spend time with my daughter, it also provided me with a great topic for the column I have to write later this afternoon. Sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for getting away from your desk and out into the world. No artist creates in a vacuum. It’s vital to get out and experience things and talk to people – to be a participant as well as an observer.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there!
What I’m Reading:
I’ve been so busy, I’ve had little time for pleasure reading. I manage to sneak a little in with bedtime stories and audio books; but it’s never enough. I’d dearly love to curl up for an entire afternoon of uninterrupted reading. Such afternoons seemed so easy to come by when I was a kid, but now they seem almost mythical – a figment of my overactive imagination. How is it that I now have so little time to spare?
Once again, short stories come to the rescue. Since it can be frustrating to have to consume the novels I’m reading in such tiny nibbles, I often mix it up with a short story to fill in the gaps and deliver a small sense of having finished something. This week, I read Monica Byrne’s story “Traumphysik” on Tor.com. I recently became one of Monica Byrne’s Patreon supporters (a story I’ll share in more detail on another day), and learned about this story in one of her supporter emails. Byrne’s challenging and fascinating novel, The Girl In The Road, intrigued me, as did her recent TED talk, which was more a performance than a presentation.
“Traumphysik” was, as are many short stories, a tale that left me with more questions than answers. I used to detest short stories for this reason, but the older I get, the easier it becomes to hold ambiguity without flinching. I love the way this story loosely weaves together the ideas of lucid dreaming, solitude, and alternate realities.
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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
- Your Logline Template for Every Save-the-Cat Genre by Jose Silério
- On Teaching Exploration: The Pigeon Paper by Jan Priddy via @brevitymag
PUBLISHING & MARKETING
- How To Write 50,000 Words In A Month With Grant Faulkner by @thecreativepenn
- How to Find Your Genius in a Digital World by @jeffbullas
- Warren Berger’s Three-Part Method for More Creativity via @farnamstreet
THE WRITING LIFE
- Why Creatives Need Alone Time to Thrive via @CreativeMarket
- C.D. Wright Lectures on Writing by C.D. Wright via @brevitymag
- These two skills changed everything for me by @DanBlank
Sundry Links and Articles:
Earlier this year, Audible released an April Fool’s recording of professional narrators reading the encyclopedia. I’m not sure how I missed it until now, but I am glad that I found it and took the time to listen. As an avid fan of audio books, I have a great respect for the skills of these voice actors. This particular showcase of their talents was both funny and also a little awe-inspiring because of the way their individual styles put completely unique spins on simple encyclopedia entries. Hysterical. The piece also includes some behind-the-scenes Q&A that’s pretty interesting.
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to getting out into the world to collect our stories.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.