Kate Flora here, pondering on a subject much on my mind this summer: How a writer balances Maine summer with the need to be at her desk. You know, from reading this blog, that I love being in my garden, cooking for my friends, trolling through the Brunswick farmer’s market for flowers and veggies and Maine-made cheese, and that I love swimming in the sea. What I haven’t talked so much about is the reality of the working writer’s life–that no matter what season it is, we have to be at our desks writing or that next book just won’t happen, and we have to be in fine libraries and bookstores everywhere because there’s little sense in writing those books, or asking publishers to publish them, if we don’t do promotion.
This past week, when suddenly the sun seemed to move far too quickly toward the position it takes in the fall, a position I measure by where the sun sets across the cove behind the houses on Abner’s Point, I was seized by a major case of “I don’t wanna!” There was a morning nip in the air that hadn’t been there before, and the very dry grass had a late August crunch. “It’s too soon!” I yelled at the passing osprey heading home with a fish. “It’s too soon. I haven’t had enough of summer yet,” I called to the juvenile seagull perching on the dock. “I’ve just started to enjoy this summer,” I called to the burbling eider ducks. All of them ignored me. “It’s too soon,” I yelled at what looked far too much like a fall sunset, before I was silenced by its beauty.
There is a crate of books in the back of my car, along with bookmarks, crime scene tape, dog paw stickers, special tablecloths, and other author-event paraphernalia, and my calendar says visit with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece and then be in Greenville at six tonight. There’s company coming tomorrow for the weekend. My desktop is obscured by piles of articles, studies, police reports, and reference books laid out for my current project, and my co-writer is impatient for me to send him the next segment of the book. Yesterday, instead of writing, I cleared three decades worth of clutter out of the laundry room so it could be repaired and spent the afternoon with my son visiting from LA.
I have a bottle of pomegranate molasses waiting to be joined with eggplant and fresh figs. The nonfiction project screams at me like a toddler having a meltdown. I have a character sitting on a bar stool waiting for me to get back to him and help him find a killer. I am waiting for my e-book publisher to send me potential cover designs for a new Thea Kozak mystery, Death Warmed Over, and a new Joe Burgess mystery, And Led Them Thus Astray. I’m so eager to see how these are received by readers who follow these series. And wondering where I will find the time and energy to get out and promote two more books.
But this is what writers do.
This summer, my project has been to pay attention to the rhythm of my days and my moods and figure out what makes me happy. Or that would be my project if I weren’t so busy with everything that has to be done. Like all the writers here at MCW, I’m trying to strike the balance between what has to be done and slowing down and remembering to do the two things we love–being present in this lovely Maine summer, and writing.
What helps? Remembering to look up from my desk. Look out the window and see the piled white pillows of summer clouds. Listen to the thrum of lobster boats passing and the squabbling of gulls overhead. Watch the patterns of wind on the water as it changes from blue to green to silver. Smell the fresh brine in the air that makes it feel extra nutritious. Take the time to taste farmer’s market lettuce or a never chilled tomato. Remembering to be present instead of hurrying through the days, and seeing the people and the places, taking in the colors and the smells.
Because fall will come soon enough, and then the browns of November, and it will be easier to stay at my desk.