The Old Summer Writing Program

I used to be a winter writer. Summer was set aside for play and travel, and come September, I would buckle down and try to get serious about my prose. But for the last few years, I’ve been mostly a summer writer. Though I write all year round, it seems I’m most inspired when the weather is warm and the living is easy. Winter is perfect for hibernation and reading other people’s stuff; but in summer, I want nothing more than to tote the laptop onto the front porch, and bang out a couple thousand words.

I’m lucky in that I don’t need complete silence or privacy for my work. It’s a quirk developed, I think, from growing up in a large family and a small house, in a busy urban neighborhood. I can write anywhere—on a beach, a Manhattan subway, and even at work (though during test time, not while I’m teaching). But my favorite place is my porch, which fronts a busy street and a playground. I’ve learned to focus deeply when I write, in a kind of trancelike way, so that I can completely enter the world of my characters, but my surroundings give me just enough grounding in the real world to help me gently out of that trance: the babies crowing in the swings across the street, the cheeping of the birds who built a nest in one of my candle sconces, the endless parade of neighbors walking their dogs—and of course I frown a little at the dogs who linger a little too long in my front garden. And if an occasional neighbor clambers up on the porch for a chat, I don’t mind; I’m usually ready for a break anyway. I almost need the presence of others to write—again, a predilection from growing up in a house and neighborhood where I was never alone.

But I still need a bit of peace and quiet from time to time. I am not happy about the rise of the big lawn services in our little neighborhood—we don’t use one since our lawn is mostly a collection of small, interesting weeds rather than actual grass. But we do have neighbors who crave that perfectly manicured lawn, and are will to shell out big bucks to maintain it. Then come the huge deafening mowers and trimmers and leaf blowers, and I have to go back in, my ears ringing. If I ever need help with our landscaping, I’m just going to find a good man with a rake.

So that is my personal summer writing program. Still have to work afternoons teaching English, but I’ll just be hanging out in the morning on the porch, happily churning out book #6. And trying not to think about autumn, when I’ll have to decide what to do with the finished product.

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