The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dreaming Big

By J.A. McDougall

Autumn has always been my true New Year. Its hopeful mood inspired resolutions and possibilities especially when I was a student, but also in later years since I’m fortunate to live with a passionate teacher.

Each morning, as I walk my children to the bus, I try to hang on to promising fall feelings. Seasonal earthy scents and leaf crunching sounds stir elementary school memories: well-rested smiling teachers, the scrubbed faces of old friends framed in back to school haircuts. Temporarily flawless workbook covers and neat binders they carry home at the other end of the day remind me of my enthusiasm as an older student, when it was time to get back to learning following months of mind numbing summer jobs.

Now that I’m the parent of students, cluttered days threaten to spoil my favorite season. I still feel the excitement of the student around new teachers, new classmates, new shoes, and I still perceive the wonder of a student presented with novel activities and situations, but now I’m also responsible for keeping the student clean and clothed and well behaved, in spite of early morning scrambling, hectic evening routines, and an endless cycle of arguments about television and homework and bedtime.

At no other time of the year is the demand to be organized and proactive greater. There are schedules to mesh, carpools to arrange, homework habits to encourage, nutritional snacks to create, and the (seemingly) momentous fashion choices between corduroy and denim. And let’s not forget all the expenses which start in late August with school fees and sports registrations, continue with October fundraising schemes, right through to holiday spending at Christmas.

Last week, the physical results of fall pressure began for me: jaw cramped with TMJ tension, headaches from too little water, short cut meals and nonexistent exercise, lower back tight with anxiety. I had to wonder, why must I miss out on the gifts of autumn?

To make matters worse, the urge to plop onto the couch with a junky magazine, or play a childish memorized piece on the piano, or pick up an old knitting project seizes me whenever I feel overwhelmed. Procrastination has officially arrived.

Of course October isn’t the only month I put off what I should be doing and it cuts both ways. In summer, when I finally locate a perfect two hour segment of quiet time to write, I have the urge to scrub a toilet or weed the garden.

My desperate need to escape responsibility this fall resulted in something wonderful this weekend: a rare BIG idea. Three characters appeared in my mind chattering about their lives and teasing me with their back stories, possible plot lines for a tangle of relationships, their husbands, their professions, their kids. I can’t get rid of this trio and I haven’t the time to sit down and have a proper chat, pen in hand. I dreamt about them last night until they finally woke me at 2:00 to get up and type out their thoughts. I begged off, promising I’d be free of the fall rush soon.

My imagination has come to rescue me. Just when I thought the hectic new routines had squeezed it out, it arrived to provide respite. The imbalance of my schedule ensured I was not left out this year. In autumn 2006, inspiration has found me too.

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star. ~ Nietzsche


Blogger craig said...

A post like this makes me think you are reading my mail - for a long time, Sept. has been my new year, and I am just ready to dive into new projects.
Then Oct. hits, and I am like, oy, where did the laziness of summer go?

Beautifully written, Anna

Tue Oct 03, 12:24:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

This is so lovely, I can't wait to read what the result of this is. Happy New Year my friend..xoxoxo

Tue Oct 03, 01:37:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

I could not believe how busy a back-to-school September could be. I had to ask friends and neighbours not to engage me in conversation if they saw me on the street, because I didn't have the time! I started wearing running shoes because it seemed that they really did help me to move faster.

Happy New Year! Good luck with your new project.

Tue Oct 03, 07:43:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Other parents used to tell me, "Just you wait until your kids get to school - then the work and worry begins!" Now I believe them.

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

Tue Oct 03, 12:02:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Lovely, Anna. I get exhausted just thinking about life in your household. Consider yourself Superwoman for getting anything written at all. And have a wonderful new year.

Tue Oct 03, 10:15:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Hmm, makes my life look rather simple. Great post.

Wed Oct 04, 03:25:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Yes, the renewal months. And I, too, have been losing sleep over some new writing projects. It's so exciting, isn't it? Perhaps it's a good time to consider doing the NaNoWriMo with us ;)

Wed Oct 04, 03:37:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

You know what?!! I signed up yesterday - mostly to check out what it's all about. I just may give a shot....but 50,000 words?

Wed Oct 04, 06:30:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome writing J! I loved this one and can totally relate.
Heather St. L

Mon Oct 09, 12:34:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Megan said...

Great blog Anna, I wish I could help you out more often and give you some relax time! This step up in number of courses has done a number on me...

Wed Oct 11, 03:28:00 pm GMT-4  

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