Monday, July 03, 2006

What I miss about being a teacher...

Holidays and summers. As a writer, I'm never "off." Except maybe in the head. I posted this picture on my website the day I turned in my last manuscript, RIDE A PAINTED PONY. My sent-off ritual starts with cleaning my office, which is just more work that feels good when it's done. Then I go out and see if the real world is still there. This time I discovered that the neighborhood mall had been completely remodeled since I last visited, and the store I wanted to go to was gone.

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and lots of people have been making plans for weeks to leave town. In Minnesota that means "going to the cabin." Don't get me wrong, I'm not interested in owning a lake house. One house is plenty to keep up with if you ask me. But the point is that it's a holiday, and I've already started another book. I'm in the early stage, which means I'm just beginning to get into the characters, and I can't afford to back out. I need to hang close to the computer.

When I was a teacher, summers and holidays were usually real breaks from the job. To this day I still have "back to school" dreams the last week or so in August. They've put me in a new classroom, and I can't find my books. I've got a room full of kids and no lesson plan. Believe me, teachers need summers and holidays off.

Writers never get away from the writing. I don't, anyway. It's all in my head. Compartmentalize? Sure, but no matter where I go, all the compartments go with me. The funny thing is that I find distractions even at the computer--critters in the woods outside my windows, E-bay, e-mail--but no egress. Could be related to problem with getting lost. Maybe I'm afraid that if truly put the writing aside I won't find my way back.

We're going to an outdoor concert tomorrow night, but I'll spend some time writing first--computer or paper and pencil--even if it's only for a an hour. Having done that, I'll be free to celebrate. Happy Independence Day!

Join me on July 6 (Thursday) at, where I'll be guest blogging.


Helen Brenna said...

I'm a workaholic at heart, so I'm dealing with this issue myself, Kathy. This summer in particular because it's the first summer I'm actually under contract. My daughter is heading into her senior year in high school and my son is only 12, so I'm really feeling that family tug these beautiful summer days. At the same time, I'm so darned excited about selling that I'm having a hard time staying away from the book I'm working on.

Writing, I think, is particularly tough to step away from. There's not always a clear cut stopping point because no scene, no book is ever perfect. And it's is in your head. I've done accounting work from home and have had no problem whatsoever leaving it be!!

I, too, will have to find some way to draw the line. Otherwise, summer's going to be over, my book will be finished, but I won't ever be able to get those days back with my kids.

Speaking of which ... what the heck am I doing on this computer? :)

anne frasier said...

oh, kathleen. i hear ya. i never take time off. i really don't have time to take time off, but something has to change and i have to make it happen. i just have to figure out how to do it. i'm actually thinking of taking a few months off once this contract is met which will be the end of the year, beginning of next year. i am tired of having no control over my own life.

Mia said...

Try writing with a day job...I seriously need to take some time off but can't stop working on stuff. I just turned in my next book and I'm helping with script revisions for this current project so I go to work, right brain on, I come home and write, left brain on (or vice versa, I've never been too sure about that....). In between I do kid stuff...I'm finally taking a day off from writing tomorrow, kind of. I'm taking the kids to the pool where they'll swim and I'll read through revisions. That's about as close to a non-writing moment as I'm going to get this year (or probably next!). The thing is, I can't NOT write. I've tried...I've even "quit" once or twice but can't not write. My mind is always working faster than my hands. I have two dictated tapes full of future storylines for books and scripts. I seriously think that if I tried to walk away from all this I'd have a perpetual migraine from all those unresolved storylines bouncing around my brain...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

It's not so much the writing I can't get away from, but the administrative stuff I work on constantly. Working with writers, publishers, agents, publicists. Maintaining blogs, GuestBlogs; interacting with viewers. Lately, I've been jamming out columns at the last minute and, I must say, they're not some of my better work. And not nearly as much fun.

I just forced myself to plan two weeks of encore columns so I only have one to write while I'm on vacation.

And I just realized I've developed these stress creases between my eyebrows. How can something so fun be so stressful?