Saturday, 24 August 2013

Summer is on its way out - Jo Carroll.


Summer is on its way out. The evenings are longer and soon we’ll wake to that chill to remind us that autumn is inevitable.
            I love summer. I love the long, warm days. I love the buzz of bees on the lavender; the sweet smell of orange from the philodendron; the cries of children from the playground. Most of all, I love being outside.
            Doing what? I’m no gardener. I used to try – there was something about February that made me rush to the garden centre and buy seeds. I’d soak them and sow them and water with tenderness – not too whooshy to wash them away, not too feebly as they needed to get the idea they might have to cope with real rain when I planted them out.
            I thinned them out, easing out tiny plant after tiny plant, leaving only the sturdy and optimistic.
            I planted them in pots, nurtured them until they might be strong enough to cope with slugs and May storms.
            And, as the risk of frost passed, I planted them out. They died. I went to buy cuttings. (There is a metaphor there, about writing, and editing, and the grief of watching our lovely ideas shrivel into nothing but a sentence. But it's August, and I'm still clinging to summer. Slow news time. Metaphors can wait until the days are cold.)
            I’ve no idea how many years I went through the same gardening performance. Now – I have shrubs that more or less look after themselves. For (dare I admit this) I’ve accepted that my gardening skills are non-existent. It makes more sense to spend time on things that might produce results than grieve over another dying lettuce. Besides, although I’m not a total sloth, I’d rather sit in my garden and read than dig up the weeds or deadhead the roses. I’d rather sit and read than mow the lawn. I’d rather sit and read than nurture tomatoes. I’d rather sit in my garden and read than …
            Write? And here’s my dilemma. Given that there are not enough hours in my life to read all the books I want to read, and write all the stories I want to write – these precious summer days present me with an impossible dilemma. I can’t write outside – I’ve tried, but can’t see the laptop screen however much I squint. I’ve no choice but to write indoors.
            I have this feeling that whatever I do is wrong. If I spend long days reading, then the story-momentum dissipates like ripples die in the pond. If I give myself a word length, and tie myself to the computer I find myself staring out of the window and longing to be under my apple tree and nothing gets done.
            What do you do?

(When I'm not sitting about reading, or failing to grow anything in my garden, I have a rucksack on my back or I write. You can find more details here.)

4 comments:

madwippitt said...

I can't read outside: just too bright and shiny and difficult to get comfortable ... like the idea of writing in the garden or in a café with muffins and capuchinos on tap, or in a cosy nook of the village pub with plenty of beer and wine to refresh and inspire, it just doesn't work for me, although I know writers who seem to flourish in such environments.

Like you I stare out the window and watch the fish in the pond outside leaping like dolphins to catch low flying bugs. Until the first words go on screen: slowly at first then getting faster and more absorbing. Once started, it's fine. It's the getting started that's a problem!

julia jones said...

What a well timed post - it's been raining all day! Longhand writing is all I can do outside but sometimes that's way of freeing up, experimenting, testing ideas ..

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I recognise the dilemma and I can't really write outside either. Though I have a lovely view of the garden from this room. But at this time of the year I look out at it and all I see is work, because this is the time when everything just gets away from me! In fact, it looks a bit like when the poisonous pink perennials were mistakenly put in the Hobgoblin's hat (for anyone who reads Moomin books!)

JO said...

Thank you all - and yes, ironic that this was posted on a day when it tipped it down from morning till night, But at least I'm not the only one with this dilemma.