If you read my Swampass post, you know that summer isn’t my favorite season. When I say “I want to be hot,” I mean I’d love to look like a supermodel. I have no desire to walk out into a blistering hot day and breath in air that feels and smells like swamp sludge.
The end of last week and this weekend in Baltimore have been brutal. On Friday, we hit a record high of 106 degrees at BWI airport and, briefly, 108 degrees in downtown Baltimore. That “record high” goes back to when they began keeping track in 1870-something. Even my summer-lovin’ friends are bitching and moaning, and those of us who aren’t fond of the hazy days to begin with are in full-force squawk mode.
In my family, we’ve always joked that my mother is a lizard. She loves the heat, and usually the warmest days of the year find her sunning herself outdoors like a lizard on a rock. She’s a lot prettier than a lizard, but the metaphor still holds. But this go-round, even she often opts for the comforts of her air conditioner.
My father, meanwhile, hates the heat with something close to a passion, and it only gets worse as he gets older. For the last few summers, he has retreated to his “man-cave’ for most of the season. Mom likes to keep the rest of the house at what she calls “a reasonable summer temperature,” so he has a portable air conditioner in the man-cave so he can keep the room as frigid as he wants.
He also has his TV and his remote, so he can hibernate happily. I won’t accuse him of intentionally freezing out my mom, sister and niece so that he can watch what he wants in peace, but you never know.
Lee and I fall somewhere in the middle. I like the whole summertime pool thing, and Lee loves working outdoors so much that there are days that nothing can stop him. But we both tire of summertime fun more quickly than we do our hikes and hammock time in the gentle comfort of fall and spring. When the temps soar into the high 90’s and 100s, I morph into daddy’s girl and retreat into my own cave.
Unfortunately, my cave is my bedroom. Lee and I have a small house. It is basically a 2-bedroom apartment that happens to sit on a decent-sized piece of property and isn’t connected to other units. Two years ago, our central air conditioning system went tits-up. We didn’t have (and still don’t have) anything close to the financial resources to have a new one installed. Because the house is so small, we opted to buy one window unit and a portable air conditioner instead. One sits in the living room window, the other in the bedroom.
On your normal summer day, this works fine. The living room unit spills over into the kitchen and keeps both areas comfortable as long as we don’t decide to cook up a Thanksgiving-style dinner. We close off the spare bedroom, and our own room is usually nice enough to burrow down under the covers for a perfect night’s sleep.
In this type of brutal heat, when even my friends with brand-spanking-new central units struggle to keep their homes bearable, all bets are off. In the midafternoon through the early evening hours, my living room is a muggy little hot box. Sure, it is about 20 degrees cooler than it is outside. But when it is 106 degrees outdoors, that means 86 degree.
That would be far from ideal writing conditions. I like my brain to be boiling over with ideas, not just boiling. Since I’m also too broke to buy a laptop, this means my “writing space,” the PC in my living room, is an uncomfortable place to be during the hours I’m home and actually have time to write. I can retreat to the comfy bedroom cave and get in some good reading, but that’s not writing.
That combined with the general social butterflyness that comes with summer has made it my most difficult season in my year of writing so far. My word count has gone down drastically in July. The novel has languished. On some days I am boiling over with frustration as well as heat. On other days, I am lulled into the lazy too-warm blanket of summer and don’t give a rat’s ass. Mentally, I’m some southern belle reclining on her fainting couch with a mint julep, which makes no sense since even when I *am* truly lazy it is more of the barstool and cold beer variety.
The weather forecast is looking like there’s not much in the way of breaks other than the odd day here and there for weeks to come. I am willing to cut myself a little writing slack, but that’s too much. So here’s the plan to keep the mojo flowing instead of cooking itself up into a sloppy, useless mess.
– Fewer lunches with co-workers, and more time taking an hour to close my door and tap away at the keyboard in the relative comfort of my office at work.
– Trips to the gym after work a few times a week. In the morning, I go there to work out and get myself energized for the day. The after-work visits will be simply for a dip in the pool. Afterwards, I’ll come home wet and with a cooler body temperature, and brave the warmth of the living room long enough to get an hour of writing in. A cold shower has the same benefit, but there’s something about that dip in the pool that just makes my whole body feel better.
– Telling the scheduled rhythm of life to kiss my hind-parts, at least when I have the luxury to do so. My writing space is a lovely temperature from about midnight to early afternoon. When I can, I’ll steal time during those hours, even if it means losing sleep or taking the occasional “mental health day” in the office. The other day, my niece said something about how she wishes that in the hottest bits of summertime people could “switch up” and be nocturnal. My job won’t let me totally do that, but I can try to find a happy medium.
– Revisiting pen and paper. I am a keyboard-and-screen creator. I’ve lost the creative flow that used to come from pen to notebook. I may not be able to get back to writing stories that way, but I can at least curl up in my cool cave and scribble ideas, notes, plots and character sketches for future use.
Fall will return, with its cool breezes and softer suns, football and campfires and blazes of color. It will bring my better writing conditions with it. In the meantime, I’ve just gotta keep on keeping on, and doing the best I can.
Does your “writing mojo” ebb and flow with the seasons? Do your rhythms and habits change depending on the time of year? What changes do you make to combat challenges in your “off-season?”
Note: After thinking this through and following some of my guidelines, I had a 5,000 word weekend, and most of those words were on the Man-Whore novel. That’s more than I’ve written (excluding blog posts) in the last 3 weeks. I guess you can beat the heat if you try!