Losing Summer

It is now the first day of fall. I noticed how perfect the weather was today when I went out to get my groceries. The sun shone brightly but the air was cool. A few of the trees on my street have already started to change. THIS is the best of weather.

The turn of August to September saw a flare-up of oppressive heat, but that seems to be the last surge of summer. It’s cooling off again; it seems the season is ready to accept defeat. As usual I had that moment of regret for all the days I didn’t spend at the beach, and having only sat outside at a restaurant with friends or family a few times, despite walking by such patios constantly. I barely wore sandals and I spent far too many days inside.

Every year now, I find a moment to complain about how summer is not very exciting as an adult. When you’re a kid you get the time off from school, and depending on your circumstances, your parents will take you somewhere for a vacation (even if it’s just a two hour drive to a town in the same state). For the rest of the summer you read, you spend time with friends, you hang out in someone’s pool (I always knew someone with a pool). You eat a lot of ice cream, go to barbecues, and don’t have to wake up early.

Then you start to get older. For most people, summer jobs start somewhere in the mid to late teens. Some start much earlier and a few won’t have jobs until after they graduate from college–but those will probably spend the summers volunteering or studying. (This story does not include those people who never have to work. I have no frame of reference to talk about them.) Suddenly, you don’t have all these days off anymore. Teenagers’ jobs are often part-time, so although they sacrifice some of their free days, they still have quite a lot of time to eat ice cream and hang out in their friends’ pools.

But then you enter the “real” world. You have a full time job, or two or three part time jobs, and you don’t have the time to enjoy the beach or spend a day wandering around town with your friends. You have responsibilities instead. If you do have the time to do these things whenever you want, chances are you don’t have the money. Much of your summer free-time goes to waste lamenting that you’ll barely be able to pay your bills this month, so instead of going to the beach, you scour Craigslist for a new job. Gone are the days of being free to enjoy the summertime. Just like they said it would, adulthood sucked away all the fun (I don’t know who “they” are exactly).

As summer becomes just another part of the year with the same schedule, the same stress, and the same lack of time, we long for the time when summer actually meant something more than just wondering what the hell you can wear that won’t cause you to die of heatstroke on the way to/in the office.

 

When you think about it, though, what exactly are we losing? Think back to being a kid during the summer. Really think. My memories of youthful summers are getting a little vague and fragmented at this point, but I’m fairly certain that I ended up bored and ready for summer to be over somewhere around the beginning of August. If I could go back and talk to my ten-year-old self, I’d say “Find something to do and be grateful for your lack of stress.” But unfortunately, hindsight never benefits us. I was always pretty eager to go back to school, even excited.

Of course, I got sick of being back at school after two weeks, instead of two months. I think I just liked the change, the feeling that things were moving forward. New teacher, classroom, notebooks, clothes. Sometimes new friends.

Leisurely summers feel like a story someone told me, rather than anything that really happened. Maybe I block them out because they make me feel guilty for not doing more with my free time when I had so much of it. Of course, I was a kid then, and kids don’t need to be responsible for “getting things done.” I think the problem is that now I know what I would do if I could spend my time how I chose without having to worry about adult things. I’ve felt like there could be so much art, music, friendship, love, etc. in my life, if only I had enough time.

It’s in the Execution

I’m writing a post right now (not this one; it’s still in my drafts folder) that is swiftly becoming a timing problem. It’s the sort of post that only makes sense to publish at a certain time of year. It’s about seasons. And sure it will make exactly the same point no matter when I end up posting it, but if I don’t get to it in the next week or so, it will seem far less relevant and no one will care. I started writing the post and figured I’d finish it the day after that, but haven’t done a thing with it since.

This is actually two problems I have had as a blogger combined into one. The first is that I have many times started writing a post, based on an idea or the seed of an idea, and somehow found that it just doesn’t work out. I don’t finish it right away, and when I come back I can’t remember what I was intending to say. Or I just don’t like it. I am the first to say that not every blog post has to be a winning work of art, but I do think it should convey SOMETHING of value–and if I’m not really interested in what I’m writing, there’s no reason to expect anyone else will be. Besides, even though I tend to approach blogging as more informal writing, and therefore needing less polish than something that a “real publication” (whatever that means at this point) would print, I still do prefer to hold myself to a certain standard as a writer, which requires that I’m at least moderately pleased with the pieces I decide to put out on the vast emptiness of the internet.

The second problem, of course, is procrastination. It’s not actually that hard to think of a timely topic, but it can be a little more difficult to finish the piece while that topic is still relevant. I’m not saying I couldn’t do this if I had to, but it is one of the reasons I like to write about more general topics that are not time-bound, whether I’m writing in fiction or in the real world. (I would like to pause to acknowledge that at this point I have already done the backspace-shuffle, the typists’ most common finger dance, to fix numerous typos, and I’m wondering when I got so bad at typing. I used to be much better than this.) Ahem. Anyway. Procrastination is procrastination whether you open the file and stare at it with your fingers over the keys or go clean the kitchen instead–if you’re not writing, you’re not writing.

This leaves me in my current predicament. I can either make myself work on this post (I suppose if I hate it I just won’t post it) now-ish, or I can wait until next year, at which point I probably will have forgotten about it entirely. My concern, after looking at what I have so far, is that I won’t get the post to say what it is I am really trying to say. This is a constant struggle for me, in writing and in regular conversation. Somehow I always feel that the recipient of my thoughts just doesn’t quite get it. I don’t know it that’s my failing or theirs.

Keep an eye out. If you see a post from me very soon about the myth of summertime leisure (oo, I think that’s a much better title than what I had), then you’ll know that I succeeded in finishing the piece. If you don’t… well then you know the other thing happened.

Summer Heat–Sometimes

I think I’ve been conditioned by air conditioning. This is strange because I don’t have air conditioning, and I hate how cold I always get when sitting in air-conditioned spaces. I usually only want it on the hottest of days. Yesterday I found the heat death-like. I thought I might catch on fire. I luckily managed to do some work, but not as much as I had wanted, because I could barely think, I was so hot. I had to get dressed for an errand, but as soon as I got home I changed quickly into something breezy that I would never be willing to wear out of the house. I tried to drink a lot of water with a lot of ice in it. Nothing really worked.

When it got dark the air finally started to cool. I was relieved, but not enough. It still felt too hot. The air in my bedroom rarely moves no matter how wide I open the windows. I probably need a better fan. So I lay there trying to will myself to move, and went to bed much earlier than usual because there was just no way to get anything else done.

As I wandered back and forth that day, spending a few minutes reading, a few minutes watching videos, working, etc., over and over, I looked out the window and wondered when it would rain. “Why isn’t it raining?” I whined to myself. That would have really helped.

That didn’t last long. I thought, it will rain when it rains. I’m not going to make it happen by wishing. Despite what I might want, I have no control over the weather. Soon enough the heat will go away, and then later it will come back…

It was around that time I went to bed.

Print Books are just Superior

Through a combination of daily Bookbub emails and the android kindle app, I’ve started reading some books in ebook form. I haven’t read many yet, because even shorter ones can take me months to finish. I read several books at once and, generally, I’m more likely to reach for physical copies than the kindle app. It doesn’t inspire me to open it.

It might be partially because of my device. Maybe when I inevitably get a true ereader (or a tablet, more likely), with a screen that displays something more like a real book’s full page, it will improve the e-reading experience. That said, I still think I will forever prefer turning a page to swiping a screen.

Ebooks might be more practical at times, certainly. In the sense of the paper it saves, more environmentally friendly. On a long trip, you could bring a large collection of books without taking up much space in your luggage. And the content is the same–but the reading experience simply is not.

I feel like print books welcome me into the story. They draw me in and ask me to stay a little longer. Having something to hold on to allows me to believe that in some way or another, the story is more real. The tactile connection is important. Ebooks are cold, distant. They don’t care about me reading them.

Perhaps it is the very fact that physical books take up space–owning them is more of a commitment. Maybe it’s a generational thing. When I was a child, computers were much less a part of daily life and e-books were not yet a product. I grew up on print. I can’t help wondering if this convenient but impersonal form of books is going to create a generation (or many) that do not understand the importance and magic of reading. That makes me sad.

I don’t really care that much what kind of paper print books are made of. If they find a better, more environmentally-conscious material for physical volumes, that would be fantastic, and I would fully endorse making books in the greenest possible way. I also believe that good books cannot be a waste of paper.

However the process changes in the future, I ask everyone–publishers, consumers, printers, etc.–to consider the wonder of print books.

Books that Inspire

I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. I find myself wishing that I had read it as a child–not because it’s written for children (I don’t know if it was) or because I would have enjoyed it more then than I am right now. I wish I had read it when I was younger because it is so well-written and such a wonderful tale that I know it would have been one of those books that I read over and over, one of those that inspired me as a writer.

As I read I’m comparing the book to the movie that came out a few years ago, and I am surprised at the amount of differences in just the first third of the book. This is definitely a case of the book and movie being almost entirely separate stories (I mean, in the movie, Yvaine never says “fuck”). So, although I have some idea of how the story goes, there are enough differences that I get to have that feeling of wanting to know what will happen next.

I would say the story has many typical elements of fairy tales and the fantasy genre (that is, before urban fantasy became popular). The details, though, are unique enough that I don’t feel like I’ve read the same story a thousand times. Since every basic story has been told already, as they say, it’s all in the way the story is told, and this one is told brilliantly. The way that details are revealed allows for just the right amount of suspense, in my opinion. I have a somewhat low suspense threshold and when it’s crossed, I get bored, so I’m happy with just enough to keep it interesting. And the language, oh my. It’s not news that Neil Gaiman is an excellent writer, but there is something about this book in particular… the quality of the writing fits so well with the setting of the Faerie world. In my opinion it’s quite ethereal, a little surreal, but not insubstantial or unbelievable in any way. Maybe I would still believe in Faerie if I had read this book when I was younger.

Last night I was reading this instead of going to sleep and I was reminded in a way that rarely happens these days that I am supposed to be writing. Of all the other interests I have cultivated, nothing makes me feel as satisfied as writing, and there is no other medium through which I can express myself so well. If I didn’t have bills and student loans and all that to worry about, I would just write full time starting NOW.

An Unnecessary Post

Just now, my life is feeling very bland. I’m not devoid of creative inspiration for writing, but I don’t feel a particular urge to create. I want to spend time with my friends, do something fun, exciting–but I also want to just have time alone, possibly lying in bed staring at the ceiling while listening to music.* I want to get lost in reading.

I have two thoughts on this. One is that my creative energy needs time to build up. None of our creative wells are quite bottomless, and if it hasn’t rained enough lately, they’re bound to be very low.

My other thought is that I’ve become engulfed in necessity (chores, bills, etc.), and the energy that requires just puts me in a mindset that is not conducive to writing.

From my past experience, I have to advise myself that the best way to fix this is to just start writing something.

But I need to complete this editing work first. And many other more “necessary” things.

But what could be more necessary to a writer than writing?

I am awash in dilemmas of adulthood.

 

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*Current music selection would probably be Deftones, Oh Land, or something very new age/experimental with no vocals.

416 days later- Please don’t give up

Deva Jasheway:

Remember: You aren’t likely to learn as much from success as from failure…

Originally posted on So you want to be a writer?:

My friend and I were talking yesterday of what it takes to be a writer. The endless hours. The self-hatred. The joy. The turmoil of never being good enough, wondering if any of us will ever get published. What made us the saddest though, was thinking about all the brilliant writers out there who gave up.

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