Summer Lessons

Balance doesn’t come easily to me.

I suspect I’m not alone. I suspect what I’m about to describe is common, not only to many writers, but to many creative people.

I love to write, and once I start, I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to exercise, shower, get dressed, meet the bus, or help with homework. I don’t want to grocery shop, make dinner, or talk to my best friend on the phone.

(Of course, once I stop, I don’t want to start again, but that’s a whole other problem, for a different post.)

What’s more, I love romance. I could write it all day long and read it all afternoon and evening, and I’d only have to take a break once a month or so (flogging myself all the way) to read a book club book so I can have the pleasure of my friends’ company for an evening. (The whole time I’m doing it, though, I will be thinking about whether I could start a romance book club …)

On top of that, I love the romance community. I love Tweeting with romance readers and writers (some of whom are the same people), reading reviews of new books, hearing on Facebook from fans, and exchanging emails with my writer friends. Recently, I’ve even made some local romance-writer friends, which means I can take walks, eat at the pub, and have girls’ nights with romance writers. One of my neighbors is an avid romance reader, too, and always happy to talk about her favorite books.

One nice thing about writing romance is that if you have other writer friends who write brilliant books, they send you their manuscripts to read, which means that when I’m not writing romance or reading romance just for fun, when I’m not chatting online with romance writers or taking a walk with a local romance-lover, I can read and critique manuscripts that are every bit as wonderful as the books I buy or take out of the library, and then I can send emails and have conversations about these wonderful books, which always makes me think really interesting thoughts about how to make my own writing better.

In short, I love what I do so much that the trickiest part is not to do it all the time. And when I say all the time, I’m really not exaggerating. Last year, I woke up at 5:30 a.m., stretched (because I’d given myself repetitive motion injuries by, yes, writing and reading), and started writing. I wrote all the time, except when I was tweeting about writing, posting to Facebook about something I’d written, emailing someone about writing, reading other people’s posts and emails about writing, or—you know, taking a walk with a writer friend and talking about writing.

It was glorious, but it had its price.

At some point, I realized that I was having trouble conversing with people who didn’t read or write romance. I would cast about in my mind for something to talk about, something I’d done other than read, or write, or talk to readers, or talk about writing, but—

Luckily for me, summer, which has opinions of its own, intervened. Summer delivered to me two children who are not remotely interested in romance, and—though avid readers—do not particularly want to be engaged in a lengthy discussion of what they’ve read.

Summer delivered to me three separate trips—a road trip to Yellowstone Park, a trip back east to hang out with the family and friends I left behind when I moved to the West cost, and two vegging weeks at my in-laws’ beach house. Summer delivered three sets of house guests.

It also delivered invitations to the pool, opportunities to eat dinner on the beach (we live on an island in Puget Sound), a weekly “all-comers” track meet, summer sandlot baseball, the discovery that we can fill a 64-oz metal insulated flask with draft beer from our local brewery and take it wherever we want, and an assortment of other things calculated to wake me up and make realize that I’d lost something.

All the other parts of me.

This summer, I spent a ton of time talking with my kids. I played board games with my son, shopped for a back-to-school wardrobe with my daughter, took visitors to one of the prettiest free beaches I’ve ever had the luck to live near, talked with friends, read fantasy and sci-fi, listened to NPR. I kayaked with my family, saw mountain ranges I’d never seen before, walked five miles on the beach from one town to another, kids in tow.

I wrote, too, half a novel, snuck into the tiniest interstices of my otherwise brimming (but not crowded) life.

It was glorious.

I can’t do it all the time. Summer is special. It has its own rules, and as much as I want to keep “summer brain” as I head into this jam-packed nutso school year, it’s just not possible.

The best I can do is remember how it felt to be reminded of how big my little corner of the world is, and how my job as a writer is not only to write, but also to live, so I can write bigger and better, richer and broader, so I can come back to my people and my community with stories to tell and advice to give, and—most of all—a heart wide open to what you all are telling me, too.

About Serena Bell

Serena Bell writes stories about how sex messes with your head, why smart people do stupid things sometimes, and how love can make it all better. Read more >
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2 Responses to Summer Lessons

  1. Audra North says:

    I love this post because it is such a perfect description of where I’ve been for the past two months. Summer brain…that’s exactly what this is! It is glorious. And the best part is that I feel refreshed and ready to write again.

  2. So much this. I love this.