It’s summer. I’m a parent. I’m a writer. This is a combination that results in noise and anxiety and lots of heat and bad hair and snacking in my house. Notice, I did not say it results in progress. Progress screeches to a halt, in summer at my house. Progress sleeps late and leaves its dirty dishes in the sink and trails laundry through the hallways and laughs with its flip flops kicked up on my ottoman, in summer. Dude, Progress got no ambition round here, in summer.
I had a plan. You’re laughing, but I’m serious. I had a hand-written plan, folks. I bought gel pens and everything. I don’t even outline without breaking out in a nauseous sweat, you understand, but I had sort of an idea that I would outwit, I mean, fill my summer with progress by proclamation. I filled in the squares on my planner (Yes, a paper planner. Shut up.), to finish a draft of a draft of a draft of a novel and have that sucker all written down in actual sentences by August. Oh, yeah! August! Like, two weeks from now. Here’s what I had in mind. You’ll see, it is completely rational.
I had a plan that I would take the kids to the pool a lot and really let my mind work out the knots for hours, during which I would also do leg exercises in the pool, so when I returned to my desk/recliner, I could focus on just zipping through the story. Cardio plus pages. Compartmentalization, people. I could parent really, really well so everybody was happy and fill up the pantry with Little Debbies and stock the fridge with Freezer Pops and corn dogs and then sneak off and do the REAL work while they were poking sugar in their gobs, completely oblivious and high on Mama-Luv. I could write my story on the sly, and still get a tan! And baby, I’d Instagram it all!
Also, I set up this thing where the two teenagers would go away to a college camp for a week in a neighboring beach town. Score! Instant excuse for ocean, right? And because I am brilliant and planning stuff, the town just happens to be on the magical Georgia coast, the setting for my first novel and my work-in-progress! (You are, right now, wishing you were me, right?) Get this: next week I get to drive down and back, and down and back again, to the beach town college camp. Four hours each way. Because my husband has a jury duty summons and we can’t stay the whole week. And we’ll do this with an eight year old boy in the car. So, you can imagine all the plotting and story structure I’m going to be just really hammering out in my drive time. Boo-yah!
It’s all about the planning. That was my conviction back in May. Yeah. So far, this is how it’s going: insomnia.
No, really. I am so rested I can’t even sleep. I have eaten my weight in Little Debbies. I have a notebook full of chlorine-scented notes on my novel that are barely legible. I don’t have firm, tan thighs, because I’m sitting under the porch at the pool, sweating the work I’m not getting done. I can’t tell you when the washing machine stopped running, but I guarantee you whatever is in it, is currently moldering. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, for dinner. And I am completely neurotic because I know the plan is total crap. Worse, I’ve done this before! Many times! So, not only am I neurotic, I’m stupid. I do not learn by experience. I am delusional. I am not your role model. I am failing. I am losing. I am eating Cheetos. I am considering taking a part-time job at the frozen yogurt shop and giving up this writing gig. It is over.
I hope by this point, you’re all smug and feeling better about yourself. Because, that’s the point. Really. Think of me as the wise old sea turtle of summer, come to bestow upon you sincere-of-heart, wide-eyed writers, this greatest literary advice of the ages: It’s summer. If you don’t want to end up at the Secret Writer Sanitarium, you have to accept it.
And by summer, I mean liminal space.
Now, let me lament for a moment on the agonies of liminal space, the empty, soul-sucking yawn of the in-between. Oh, wait. I just spent six hundred words doing the lamenting. Well, you get it. But in case you don’t, or maybe you happen to read this somewhere where it’s wintertime outside and you’re still cursing your own, personal writer’s summer, here’s a smart quote. Picture me in my shell, speaking to you in my wise old sea turtle voice (which is actually Richard Rohr’s voice, so I’m a Franciscan wise old sea turtle and totally legit).
“Liminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in genuinely new ways. It is when we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next. During this graced time we are not certain or in control. This openness allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive. Liminal space is where we are most teachable.”
Based on the summer I’m having, I am excelling in teachability, y’all. I am wide open and receptive and way out of control. I am allowing room for Freezer Pops and the genuinely new. I translate that to mean, transformation. And when it comes to this writer’s journey, in my opinion, there’s one thing I am sure of beyond my compulsive issues with my paper planner or my need to complete my next manuscript – that’s entirely the point. Transformation by Cheetos. It’s working for me.
How do you feel about the liminal spaces along your writing journey? Do you embrace them? Do you discover new energy during your metaphorical summers? Or do you fight against the transitional stages of the process? What works for you when you are betwixt and between with your writing projects and life?
* * * * * *
Kimberly Brock is the award winning author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, THE RIVER WITCH (Bell Bridge Books, 2012). A former actor and special needs educator, Kimberly is the recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year 2013 Award. A literary work reminiscent of celebrated southern author Carson McCullers, THE RIVER WITCH has been chosen by two national book clubs.
Kimberly’s writing has appeared in anthologies, blogs and magazines, including Writer Unboxed and Psychology Today. Kimberly served as the Blog Network Coordinator for She Reads, a national online book club from 2012 to 2014, actively spearheading several women’s literacy efforts. She lectures and leads workshops on the inherent power in telling our stories and is founder of Tinderbox Writer’s Workshop. She is also owner of Kimberly Brock Pilates.
She lives in the foothills of north Atlanta with her husband and three children, where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her website at kimberlybrockbooks.com for more information and to find her blog.