Friday, August 20, 2010

My Day Off

I'm not very good at leisure.

This was true even before I started writing all the time. I've never been able to sit still for long, and I'm perplexed by the notion of relaxing in a lawn chair or on a beach or hammock or couch. I'm fidgety and distractible and I just need to get up and do stuff.

But lately I've been working a little too hard and coming a little bit uncomfortably close to burnout. It was time to step away from the keyboard, and luckily it was also time, today, for one of my very favorite traditions - the summer's-end Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk trip we've been taking for over a decade.

The first time we did this, Junior was too little to ride any but the baby rides and we had to watch T-wa like a hawk around the water because, at six, he was more enthusiastic than cautious. Today, T-wa - still more enthusiastic than cautious - drove us all down to Santa Cruz and Sal, officially taller than me at 5' 9.5", was plenty big enough for all the rides. Beloved Auntie K came along, so poor T-wa had to deal with three adults backseat driving.

One of us thinks it's warm enough to swim - one of us doesn't

Some things haven't changed at all. T-wa still has to get in the water first thing, even though it was cold enough that I was wearing mittens on the beach. (I've learned, after all these years, to pack tons of layers.) Everyone is allowed to eat all the junk food they want and the evening must end with fried cheese, more a curiosity than a delicacy, even though everyone is required to take at least a nibble (even Auntie K, who was feeling very nauseous after all those rides). Speaking of rides, I go on every single one and so does Junior. She and I have iron constitutions for this sort of thing. Everyone else gets queasy on the spinny ones, while we just wish they would go faster and last longer and do more upside-down scary stuff.

The sky was blue enough to break your heart, the tide pools and distant mountains gorgeous enough to more than make up for all the ticky-tacky, and the sand got in my lip gloss and shoes and hair. The kids said "thank you" and "I love you" a lot. Everyone but the driver fell asleep on the way home.

Auntie K and Junior in the bumper cars

I'll be a new person, a renewed writer, tomorrow when I get back to the task. It may take me a few paragraphs to transition back to the desolate torment in which I left my characters, and I'll take a break when the kids finally stumble out of bed to make chocolate chip pancakes.

I ought to do this more often.

Here's the thing. No one - not even people who love their jobs, cry with happiness because they get to do what they love, live and breathe words as though they were oxygen - no one can do it all the time without coming up for air. Sometimes, I come a little too close for comfort. Other than my kids, I forget to pay attention to life beyond the book. And that's a mistake.

Cleave too close and you stop surprising yourself. Forget to breathe and you'll forget to question, poke, upend, and U-turn as well. Get too enmeshed and you might as well turn in your membership card, 'cause you ain't gonna be writing anything worth reading.

I often take pot shots at people who make the opposite mistake - the ones who never make time for the chair. Now, humbly, I admit that the opposite problem is still a problem. And I pledge to try a little harder to do better. Because life is rich, and I almost missed it. Those garlic fries were worth every greasy bite. Hanging upside down a hundred feet up, screaming all the while, was splendid. And seeing my sister helping my kids grow up...well, yeah, a little teary here. Thanks, Big was a good day.

Auntie K, Bob, T-wa and Junior considering what to nosh on first


Mags said...

I fall into the same thing, especially when the writing is going well. I get so possessive of that mojo, I barely want to sleep for fear of breaking the spell.

And then I have a day like the one you've described, and it reminds me that there's a whole lot of stuff going on out there in the world that can feed my stories life. I can't make my worlds ring true if all I experience on a daily basis is books and the day job and *gasp* the interwebs. I kind of have to observe and interact with this world on a semi-regular basis if I want to sell folks on the ones I'm creating.

Thanks for the reminder and the vicarious trip to the boardwalk. I'm so jonesing for some garlic fries, now.

Pamela Cayne said...

What a wonderful lesson, Sophie--thank you! It's always so tough to break away, but once we do, we wonder why we didn't get that recharge sooner.

And you just can't beat fried cheese.