I didn’t think I’d make it this year; my schedule is booked (overbooked, really, but that’s always temporary). Ever since I swapped peninsulas (Michigan for Florida) eight years ago, my brother, sisters, and I have converged at a family condo during the second week in April. This year I didn’t make it down until the day after my brother had left. Bummer! I miss him. I miss the teasing and laughter, the reminiscing, and catching up with each other.
Still, I’d made it. I needed the break. It was worth it. As I crossed the bridge late at night, I immediately felt my shoulders relax. The lights from the hotels on the beach glowed against the dark expanse of the horizon, and I felt tension blow away in the cool evening air. Arriving so late at night, when I had always made this trip during late morning, offered a fresh scene that immediately reset my attitude. The next morning on the beach, the rest of my weariness dissolved.
At our beach chairs, the thrum of the ocean and the emerald waters mesmerize me within seconds. The rhythm of the waves, flowing ashore and then retreating in a tireless succession, resets my emotions. The sun warms my skin until I cannot take a minute more of its intensity. Then the breeze blows in with the surf to cool me. The sun glares down again, its heat sinking deep down until it reaches my soul. I soak it in, storing it all.
This solar charge refills what had been nearly depleted. It is enough to last the next few weeks of a hectic pace. And then I’ll refill and recharge again. But next year–next year I’ll make it to this beach sooner.
It’s National Poetry Month and I’ve been remiss in sharing my love for poetry! I have a great excuse, though, since I’ve been sharing my love for description and lyrical prose instead. In my personal universe, this month is “Writing Workshop Month”; I’m teaching writers from ages 8 to adult somewhere everyday.
During the past week I’ve been reciting key lines from my favorite poem. It fits the scenario of my life and so is appropriate to share on Poem in Your Pocket Day.
First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
Yes, life is crazy right now with 12-hours days (which include traveling between various venues) but I seem to thrive on it–as long as it doesn’t last too long, of course. During such months, I also make time for solar recharge. Then I can be sure my candle will last the night, and the next night too.
I spent the weekend focused on refilling the creative well. I took a “private” retreat since plans for first a writing conference, and later a retreat, didn’t pan out. Reading, watching squirrels in the white pines and water birds at the pond, and planning new projects at the pool filled my time.
I left my watches behind and kept my phone off. One night I went to bed at 3 a.m.–didn’t even realize the time–because I wasn’t tired and the book I’d been reading all day was really engaging. Simply doing what I wanted on my own time was so refreshing. (And can’t beat the cost of hanging out at home.)
A new perspective within the same scenery can do wonders. I felt so energized. The best part is, I finished a MS revision. It’s off to the editor. So is a grant application for a WIP. And now I’m ready to tackle the next project, plan the next workshop, and get excited about book promo.
When friends ask how I manage to juggle everything, I usually smile. I thrive on variety. I used to love multitasking (though it eventually led to my need to “unplug”). I enjoy jumping from one project to the next. I’m energized by teaching in different venues and working on both fiction and nonfiction projects simultaneously.
Sometimes we need to heed warning signs our bodies send out. I ignored the ache and tight muscles in my back last weekend. I noticed but dismissed the weight of a cart used to lug books and various items to the start of two new writing workshops. I could not ignore the sharp pains that made it difficult to sit, stand, reach, or do anything normal the next day.
Gratefully, I was able to cancel a workshop and pamper the injury. But, I didn’t get to write–or teach–so next time, I’ll listen when my body speaks.
April promises to be incredibly busy. Four new workshops begin next week. A fifth is schedule to begin on Saturday mornings at the end of the month. In addition to preparing for these classes at different locations, I still have my monthly column to write, book projects to work on, articles to complete, clients to work with, and my college students to deal with.
Since the college semester is on the final lap, those students are scrambling to turn in late work and finish lab requirements. Meanwhile, I need to calculate final grades. It’s a lot to juggle, but instead of draining me all this activity inspires me.
First, I enjoy meeting the workshop participants. These are writers at various levels who enroll in 4- to 6-week courses. Hearing about their projects reminds me of the variety of ideas floating around out there. As I listen to their in-class writing, I marvel at the variety of ideas triggered by the same writing prompt. Often, their projects and ideas will remind me of a project I put on hold long ago.
Second, I have always enjoyed staggering projects. So, as I’m in the middle of one, I’m generating the details and initial plan for a new project. As I finish the revision on another, I’m creating the first scenes of the next project–or gathering facts and outlining, if it’s a nonfiction project. The teaching is the same. The energy of meeting new students and motivating them for the course carries me through in wrapping up the current course.
Finally, the writing and teaching balance each other. My writing inspires my teaching and my teaching inspires my writing. It’s win-win. Though April is booked, I look forward to encouraging and guiding all my writers, whether workshop pros or college freshman. In the end, I have a feeling it will be quite a productive month.