Summer is inching into autumn, and it’s been raining almost non-stop for the past four days. We had a last bright, golden summer day on Saturday. Watching the rain, though, I’m the happiest I’ve been for a long time. It’s been a hard year. This summer hasn’t been the summer of my life – maybe next summer will be a better one. Out of the sticky, humid days, though, my manuscript has been built, paragraph by paragraph.
Although I haven’t written as much as I thought I would by the end of August. I’m at over 25,000 words, and I feel that this is something to celebrate. Even though I have around 45,000-75,000 more words to write (between 70,000-100,000 words for a novel), I’m more committed to the story than I was when I did NaNoWriMo for the second time, where every word was a struggle.
(Illustration: Paul Kulsha.)
Autumn and winter are my favourite seasons. Although I do love the brightness and joy of spring, and summer does have its moments, for me it’s all about crisp air, crunchy leaves, scarves, hot chocolate and celebrations. The shorter days and longer nights. I’m a night owl, so a longer night is always a happy thing. I love fairy lights and fireworks, fires and candlelight. I would rather wear tights and wrap up warm than get sunburnt and wear sandals.
It’s the succession of things, the lead up to Christmas and the New Year – Halloween, Bonfire Night, my birthday – that mark this time of year as one of celebration and excitement. It didn’t use to be this way. With school and University, September always marked the end of the holidays. Having chosen to be self-employed, and mostly enjoying my work, Summer, with its stifling heat and sweatiness, is an uncomfortable time to work. I’m happier to work in cooler temperatures, when being at my desk doesn’t feel like a chore.
For some reason, too, summer has often been a time of apathy and depression in the past two or three years. Ironically, with the bright days and more vitamin D, you would think I’d be more able to stave it off. Instead, sunshine seems to add a cruel contrast to creeping apathy, which I have to fight off the best I can. This year has been both a breakthrough year and a difficult one. I’ve been writing most days from March, but mid-August, I felt it stealing up on me again, and writing has been harder. Yet I’ve kept going, and that has made all the difference.
With the start of the new season, a sense of renewal has entered my life, as a counterpoint to the beginning of decay and harvest that the season brings. Perhaps the grief of losing my Gran, the apathy that followed on, and the attempt to put myself together again is finally coming to a natural circular end, leading back to the beginning. The things I crave – long walks in the cold air, seeing more of my friends, a change of scenery, a sense of celebration and not mourning – are once again feeling possible. I’m leading myself away from stagnation and fear, and towards hope.
There also comes the important knowledge that I can’t give so much of myself to people that I have nothing left for myself. This was my mistake last year, when I gave so much that I had nothing left – my writing suffered, I felt torn, and became confused about who I was and what I wanted. I confused what other people wanted from me with what I wanted. It’s something everybody should look out for, and be aware of, especially if you’re sensitive to stress and being overwhelmed. Happily, though, I’m in a place where I can now reel myself in and find healthy boundaries. You don’t have to be everything to everybody.
I have a list of things I want to do in the next six months, and a list of things I want to do next year. I don’t have to do them all, they’re just a guide to remind me what I have to look forward to, and what is possible – but writing that list made me feel more like myself. If a simple list has that kind of power, I’m looking forward to finding out what the rest of the year has in store. Tonight, I’m going to print out that list and put it somewhere I can see it, to remind me what I have to look forward to, and what I’m aiming for. I’ll also make myself another cup of coffee and feel grateful that I have those possibilities in my life. For anyone who is reading this – I hope you have a wonderful last week of summer (or for Australia, last week of winter!).
‘At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.’ – Rainer Maria Rilke.