I am lucky to have a schedule that is both full and fulfilling. (My guess is that you, dear reader, are busy too, so read on. This post is for you.)
In the two weeks since my last post, I have taught a five- and seven-year-old to ride without training wheels, started a new semester, attended my son’s baseball games, hosted a pizza party and a book club, read two novels, planted flowers, finished out my term on a PTA board, watched an amazing eclipse with my family, worked on a family member’s political campaign, roasted marshmallows at the cabin, and searched for petroglyphs, and taught new songs to eighty kids at church.
One thing I haven’t done much of in the last two weeks: Write.
My break from writing wasn’t intentional, but I’m okay with it for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, because I needed (and wanted) to fulfill family and career and other obligations. Because there are things, both enjoyable and not-so-enjoyable, that need to be done before I can write without feeling guilty about the things that are left undone.
But here’s another reason the break was a good thing: I think it was actually good for my writing.
People will often (and wisely) advise giving yourself some distance from your manuscript before revising. This allows you to look at your manuscript with fresh eyes, but in my case, it also gave me a chance to come back to work with fresh experiences.
One of my current works in progress happens to involve (a) teaching kids to ride bikes, and (b) kids playing baseball. And during the last two weeks, I’ve realized flaws and had new ideas for both of these elements in my manuscript. If I hadn’t spent the last two weeks doing what I’ve been doing, my manuscript would have been worse as a result.
The old adage is to write what you know, but if all you know (or all you’ve known lately) is the computer screen, the well from which you draw your stories will quickly run dry. I really believe that the more fascinating people you meet, the harder you work in the office and the yard and in arenas volunteer or spiritual or political, the more adventures and chances you take, the better your writing will be.
So one of my goals this summer (and I have many) is to have rich and diverse and funny and fascinating experiences so that, when the time comes to sit down and write, my characters can do the same.