Every summer, in those brief weeks “off” from the school year, I try to accomplish certain things. One year, I had a baby and spent the summer on maternity leave, taking walks, reading books, trying to exist at a pace much slower than I’d known for most of my adult life. The next year, I chaperoned a trip to DC with students and threw myself into reading and lesson planning and going to the movies. Last year, I chaperoned the DC trip again, taught a summer class, and spent a week in the Adirondacks for the NEH Forever Wild program.
Last summer was also the year I talked about writing and didn’t. I can name excuses – that’s the easy part, right? I cleaned my house. I wanted to read. I taught that class (at the last minute). I planned lessons. I just….got busy (often watching Netflix; let’s be honest here). It had been a long, long time since writing was a regular habit (again, I can make excuses; I won’t). I know it’s common to say things like “I don’t know where the time went!” but the 2015-16 school year was a lot like that. I thought things would get less crazy once my son got out of infancy, but it turns out I’m very good at making myself busy.
As a result, I started working on my book last fall and didn’t get very far. To be fair, I was going to simply reread my dissertation and begin addressing each chapter one at a time, month by month. I didn’t plan to move fast. I knew better than that, because fall trimester tends to come in like a hurricane, swoop all us teachers up in it, and set us down in the land of November before we know it. By Christmas, I hadn’t made it past “Step 1: reread dissertation”. Things changed with winter break. I worked on a proposal. I began conceptualizing what my project would look like as a book. I attacked all the chapters with venom (and cut one of my favorites – it just doesn’t belong). I made an aggressive writing plan to take me through the spring.
And guess what? This time, I pretty much did it. I wrote in small chunks here and there, week by week. There were some weeks when I wrote nothing and some weeks when I wrote a lot. There was that time over spring break when my son got sick for two days (strep throat…for me, too) and it threw me off. There were all these things I had going on that stopped me in my tracks from time to time, but by the time I hit the end of the school year I had an intro, chapter 1, and chapter 2. Dear reader, it was starting to look like a book.
Now? I’m back. This is the summer of writing, and I feel unstoppable. Well, except for those moments when I get sucked into YouTube for too long. Those don’t really count, though, because I’m not looking at funny cat videos or watching John Green vlogs (I promise). Instead, I discovered that in the past 5 years since I defended my dissertation, about a million archival films have been posted to YouTube, and at least a dozen of those have something useful for my book project.
But still, here I am. I’m writing, and I never want to stop.