Mary Emerick is a monthly columnist for Cheek Teeth. She blogs at Inside the Mountain's Skin.
The person who asks it leans forward with a look of interest.
“So, how’s your writing coming?” she asks.
“Um. Er. Well,” I fumble.
The truth is, it’s summer. I haven’t published anything in weeks. Heck, I’ve hardly written anything in weeks. I am finding that my writing is cyclical, dependent upon the season. It’s hard to explain to the asker, who has heard rants of despair after rejections and crows of victory after success. Why would I just stop because it’s warm outside?
It’s like this. In spring, winter and fall, it’s easier to plunk my butt down at the computer. Snow blankets the ground for a good six months and everything slows down. Night drops in at five in December, with long hours of fireplace crackling and hours of contemplation before bed. Spring is a misnomer here, mostly a wind-swept season of mud, ice and rain. Fall can be a mixed bag, sometimes early snow shutting me out of the mountains, always a seesaw of weather. Better to retreat indoors; comfort myself with a sweater and some words.
Summer though, sweet, sweet summer. Summer is biting into a ripe peach. Blackberries in a thorny draw of the canyon. Summer is lying in a hammock. Summer is manic, cramming every outdoors activity into each hour. Summer is a different story altogether. Each year, I am drunk on summer. I am greedy for every sun-soaked, perfect day. I am addicted to summer. The summer days I have tried to write have ended in misery.
Of course, I don’t fall off the wagon completely. I write little notes when I awaken from sleep, when I am on the trails, and in between all the activities of summer. I save these up and in the cooler months I cull from them. There might be scraps of conversation I use later in a novel. Weird fragments that I can piece together like a quilt. It’s not a total loss. It all adds up, eventually.
I imagine that real writers can ignore the soft breeze that flows in through the windows. They can disregard the river calling their name. They tap ferociously on their way to another thousand words. Their skin remains unblemished by wrinkles. That is the difference between true writers, the ones who make it, and me. I am too easily distracted by things like summer.
Maybe it is because I live in a place where summer is one brief breath. Already the pendulum is swinging back. It can snow here in August. Summer is brief and un-fulfilling, leaving me wanting more.
Once, long ago, I roomed for the summer with two women who had jobs in a fudge shop. On their first day they came back laden with goodies. “Our boss told us we can eat anything for free!” they enthused. “Fudge, strawberries and popcorn! We’ll never have to buy food at all!”
You can guess where this is going. By the end of week one, my roommates couldn’t stand the taste of any more candy. Perhaps this is what I need, a surfeit of summer, enough to quench my addiction. Then and only then I can sit calmly in my chair, focused only on the words that spin out into an airless room.