It’s the second of September. Summer holidays are over and new school year begins next week.
So, that happened.
I have mixed feelings about September. I regret the passing of warm summer weather, which I love so much. Long afternoons for hiking. Weekends swimming and canoeing at the cabin. Being able to walk at night in a short-sleeved T-shirt, eating ice-cream. I love summer.
That said, I also love teaching, and I look forward to seeing last year’s students and meeting new ones. I like my job enough that I don’t dread September, but I always want to hang on a little longer to summer.
I think most teachers feel that way. But for me there’s the added twist that, from September to June, writing novels is my part-time gig, sometimes downgraded to my hobby. Teaching’s what I do full-time, the job that occupies many of my waking hours and brings in a steady paycheque.
In July and August, I’m a full-time writer.
That’s not to say that I write eight hours a day. Does anyone? I don’t think I could even imagine writing eight hours a day! I don’t have the attention span for that. But during the summer months, I define myself primarily as a writer. It occupies the space in my time and thoughts that normally gets filled up with teaching.
Now that my kids are older teens with their own activities and summer jobs, my summer mornings almost all started the same way. By eight o’clock most mornings, I’d be in my favourite chair at my favourite coffee shop, enjoying this view.
Most days this summer, the work that occupied me was editing the manuscript of my novel Most Anything You Please — either in hard copy or on the computer. Sometimes the task of the day was research or writing new sections — or even writing a bit on a whole new project.
Usually in the afternoon I’d go do something else, like running messages or going for a hike, but there were some lovely afternoons in July when the weather was perfect and I had a hard-copy manuscript to go through (meaning I could work outdoors without worrying about computer-screen glare). Then I moved my office to the back yard and enjoyed this view.
As September brings cooler temperatures and more rigid schedules I often find myself wondering: would I enjoy being a full-time writer year round? Would life without a day job be as appealing when the afternoons involved cold winds and slushy sidewalks instead of scenic hikes and backyard lemonade? A life in which I have leisure to write as much as I want is always linked, for me, with sunny days and long warm evenings. It’s much more appealing to get away with writer friends for a four-day retreat to put in some intensive final edits on a book (which I also did this summer) when you’re enjoying a lovely country house with sunshine pouring in through the windows, or working on deck with the sight, sound and smell of the ocean to accompany your efforts.
I also wonder if I’d have the focus and discipline to make my time productive if I were writing full-time, year round. It seems like a no-brainer that more time to write would produce more and better writing, but maybe the discipline required to cram my creative work into my spare time ten months of the year, with just two months to focus on it full-time, is actually the only thing allowing me to get any work done. I’m very easily distracted and I’m a great time-waster, especially since they went and invented the internet. Maybe with more time to write, I’d just waste more of it on social media, or playing games of Lexulous online.
It’s not a decision I’m likely to face anytime soon. Maybe in six years or so, when both these teenagers have gotten themselves some kind of a college education and (perhaps) moved out, I’ll think about life as a full-time writer — but for now, that paycheque is pretty essential, so I think I’ll keep showing up to work from September to June, and writing in the moments in between.
Summer, I’ll miss you.