Let’s keep going with the summer writing challenge. Set aside 10 minutes and just write. Today’s topic is “How hot was it?” Write about the hottest summer you can remember. What did it feel like? What did you do to cool off? Here’s a memory of mine:
I can hear my dad’s voice now, “Lay still and you’ll cool off.” I grew up in western Pennsylvania in the ‘60s and 70s when air conditioning wasn’t everywhere like it is now. We lived in a ranch style house that had an attic fan in the hallway. It pulled the warm air out of the house at night, encouraging the cool air to come in through the windows.
Sometimes on those few August nights when we couldn’t get relief from the heat, it felt like we were baking in our beds. But Dad was right. If we just relaxed into the night, the air would cool down and we could drift off. With all the windows open, I could listen to the frogs and the cicadas sing us to sleep. By the morning it was cool enough that the sheet felt good around my shoulders. It was so delicious to feel cool, especially when we knew it wouldn’t last long. That heat would find us before noon and follow us into the evening.
(sunset photo by Elaine Estes)
I felt inspired last week to try something new. I have never thought of myself as an artist. I don’t sketch or draw pictures. The only thing I ever draw is maybe a funny face in a birthday card. But I took a leap and I bought a kit that had five little bottles of paint and some paint brushes. The directions told me how to mix colors and which brushes made the shapes I might want.
The kit also came with a few pieces of paper, about 5×7 inches. Somehow, that reassured me. I didn’t have to start big. I could just give it a try. It turns out that I love mixing colors. When I created green from yellow and blue, it felt like magic. I know for many, this would not be such an amazing discovery. I loved it.
What does this have to do with our writing challenge? I realized that there are plenty of people who feel the same way about writing. It can be overwhelming to begin. That’s why I wanted to challenge myself and all of you to write a little something every day. Start with just a few sentences. We’re not writing term papers or the great American novel. Write about a memory, an observation. Write a grocery list. Let the words out.
I might really go crazy for my next painting and use an 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper. Or, maybe I’ll paint just one little thing in the corner. Our creativity is lurking inside of us. We just need to let it out.
We make new memories every day, but with just a scent of honeysuckle or a taste of watermelon, we can flash right back to a summer day in our childhood. The senses do a great job of reminding us of times gone by.
The picture of the roses in a vase was made here in Willow Spring, NC, at my kitchen window. We have one of those knockout rose bushes in front of our house. It grows so fast that, before you know it, it’s six feet tall and filled with roses. When it blooms and the bees start humming around it, it takes me right back to my Great Aunt Frances’ house in the 1960s.
She and my Uncle Ed lived just outside of Pittsburgh, PA, in a sweet little four-room house. They lived in town (which is what we said because we lived in a rural area) and they had a little yard that my Uncle Ed kept immaculate. Behind their house was a huge rose bush. I think it wasn’t as big as I remember it, but it was so beautiful. As a little girl, I loved to just sit in the grass next to it. When the summer air was warm and there was a breeze, the roses smelled like love. My Aunt Frances was so proud of her roses. I remember her smile like it was yesterday.
Aunt Frances and Uncle Ed and the rose bush have all been gone for more than 30 years, but the little vase of roses on my kitchen windowsill takes me straight back to them.
What memory do your sense conjure up? Take today’s challenge and write a few sentences. I know I enjoyed writing about my summer memory today. See you tomorrow.
I got reacquainted with Natalie Goldberg last week. I’ve never actually met her, but I’ve read most of her books and feel like we know each there where it counts. She has written many books about writing and also memoir. We are from the same tribe. I don’t know how she would feel about that, but I say that because it seems like she has been looking over my shoulder as I write, encouraging me and cheering me on for years. I know when I hear that she has a new book out that I love it already.
Her book, “Writing Down the Bones,” was released this year in its 30th anniversary edition. What I hadn’t realized until I went back and read it again after all these years is – first, wow, I’m old – and second, I have built a life of writing on her foundation. She approaches writing as a practice. It’s not just a way for her to tell a story, but it’s a way for her to express the layers, the nuance, the feelings that all of us have but don’t always get to acknowledge. She lets herself roll around in the words and not get stuck on what’s perfect. Her advice is what I took to heart to Write It Out. Don’t stop yourself. Give the editor who lives in your head ten bucks and send her to lunch. Don’t stop, don’t cross out, don’t second guess what you are writing. Just let it happen. You will get to know yourself in a way that will surprise you.
Write something every day. That is the challenge that I’m giving myself and I would like to bring you along. I’m going to post something every day for two weeks. There isn’t going to be a theme, but please write about something that matters to you, that you enjoy or that speaks to your heart. It doesn’t need to be deep or personal. Just start writing and see what happens. Keep it short. Don’t feel pressured. This is going to be fun! I’ll see you back here tomorrow.