Our Voices

Photo of watch out for the mimes

Matthew Kingston on July 26th, 2012 @ 01:00 PM No comments
For a writer, summer is a double-edged sword. Or, if you prefer a less clichéd phrase, summer is a mime in a hurricane. I’ll let you riddle that one out. Or some such thing.

There’s the extended hours of writing, gloriously gifted by that ever wobbling world of ours hurtling itself through the curvature of spacetime. And, think of all the extra Creep Time* to stare out windows** and sit on park benches and at sidewalk coffee shops, taking in the people, gaining new inspiration, which is as prevalent as dust in a sunbeam, or as numerous as food trucks in Portland. The problem, of course, is that there’s so much to do. Concerts. Softball games. Baseball. Soccer. Kickball leagues and slip ‘n slides. BBQ’s and picnics at Golden Gardens. Sailing. Golfing. Summer blockbuster reboots of varying enjoyment. Dog parks. Reading outside. Iced coffee. Ice cream cones, and the ever-illusive ice cream bush. And, of course, all the people. And the porch-side drinks, fireworks and water skiing.

It’s too much. It’s too obtrusive. It makes me feel far too guilty. For someone who needs multiple hours set aside for any sort of productive intellectual heavy lifting, it’s a necessity to have space, to have damp, gray evenings and Saturday mornings. The farmer’s markets and bike rides, the beach walks and cornhole tournaments, they inch the writer closer to friendliness, to camaraderie, to functioning more like a real person than a recluse***.

Which is all to say, I haven’t been writing as much as I would like. Or reading. I’ve got half-finished New Yorker articles about genetically altered mosquitoes or forensic linguists. I’ve got Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia and The Paris Review’s first collection of interviews both sitting next to my bed. I’ve got Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine and China Mieville’s Railsea bouncing around in my shoulder bag. All partially started. They might not all get finished. At least, not until the gray sets in and the coffee runs like water and the mist socks me in and allows for the curling up on a couch as it gets dark at 4:30 on a Saturday and reading the night away.

And so I vacillate, daily, between spending time outside frolicking in the sunshine and tossing a few games of cornhole and sipping on some local libations, and sitting closed up in my room, hunched over a massive oak desk scattered with Edgar Allen Poe and Albert Einstein action figures and empty demitasse cups and the soft mutterings of whatever music escapes my computer speakers, the keyboard strokes often drowning out the noise.

The solitary life is beneficial, accepting of the usual nine months of mist and gray, allowing time to ruminate and write. But for a few moments in the summer, when the sun shines and the people celebrate, I ditch that oak desk and computer screen and Edgar Allen Poe bobblehead, and I go outside. So, go outside. Don’t feel guilty. I’ll feel guilty enough for all of us.

*I can’t tell you how many times, writing at a coffee shop, I’ve been caught staring at someone, or a group of people. Minding my own business, pluming some deep, dark corner of my mind, I’m suddenly snapped back into reality by furrowed brows and stink eyes, as if their lives were more interesting that the universe-spanning stories I’m concocting in my mind. It is rather embarrassing, and I feel bad, but it is the curse, and indeed necessity, of the writer to stare, to gather, to zone out and drift, while leaving the corporeal plane behind. It’s creepy. I know. I’m doing it right now. Sorry.

**One of the most glorious and underrated things of writing: staring out windows.

***I can’t speak for all writers, of course. That would be presumptive and hubristic of me, or something. But, I can speak for myself (not always that successfully, mind you, but I can do it, all the same), and perhaps many of the writers out there will concur. Or disagree. That’s fine, too. No problem. Whatever you want.

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