I’ve been neglectful. I haven’t written this column in oh, months. I am ever-so-casual about the Facebook obligations I incurred by signing up and having “friends.” And my website, blog, friends (the real ones), phone calls, reciprocal dinners, all suppressed by this tortured eight-to-twelve week cycle we call summer on Martha’s Vineyard. Has your house been the locus of family? Do you crave the quiet routine of a winter morning? Are the demands on your wallet and calendar almost more than you can bear? Get in line. I’m there. Oh, and add a job, and the pressing need to come up with another book idea into the mix.
Last summer I did something quite extraordinary. I took a pass on all the major summer events: Illumination, the Fair, the Fireworks. I continued the trend by eschewing this year’s Fourth of July parade. Nothing bad happened and I actually didn’t miss any of those traditional must-dos. It was like not participating in the two major holy days of the year and yet not being struck down — with either guilt or divine retribution. To us here on the Vineyard, those three above-mentioned events have taken on the air of nearly religious importance. Why else do we refer to this particular week as “hell week”?
However, there is a fine line between consciously choosing to not do something, and making that itself a tradition. It is so easy to become lazy, to forget going to the beach because it means dragging on that bathing suit (ever wonder why we still call them bathing suits, when we no longer say we are going bathing in the ocean?) and finding the only dry beach towel in the house and then having to squeeze in a quick run to Tony’s to get the bread so that we can make the sandwiches that would actually be easier to eat here, on the deck, under the big umbrella with the birds flocking around the feeder in avian bustle. Last summer I only got in the water four times. Not good. People in those SUVs from Connecticut pay lots of good money to have what I have whenever I want it. Shame on me.
Unfortunately, writing too has become that one more thing to think about. After completing the upcoming novel, it was, as I’ve noted here in this column, really hard to get into another one. I felt tapped out, fresh out of ideas, weighing the temptation to simply stop doing it. The very idea of committing words to the screen seemed insurmountable. Sort of like having climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty, I discovered that there were more stairs to conquer. Shoot, let me just walk back down. I really don’t need to see the view. Like in skipping the Ag Fair, I was unremorseful about not working on a new idea. Besides, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it again. Maybe the reason I didn’t have a viable idea was because I needed a break.
Or, so I thought.
Evidently, for me, writing is more like an appetite than an outside influence. Having lost my appetite for doing it, and thinking that maybe, like forgoing Illumination and Tivoli Day, it wouldn’t hurt to take a break, I have discovered that I’m ready to go back to it. A literal midnight awakening with the right concept startled me out of my inertia. The break wasn’t such a bad thing after all; but, it couldn’t become permanent.