It’s been twenty years since I’ve reported to a classroom on the Tuesday after Labor Day in an outfit carefully chosen ahead of time, but I still associate September with renewal. New classes. New clothes. New pens. New notebooks. And most welcome, a change of season.
In September, the weather can reach 75 degrees and be sunny during the day but cool down to the 50s after sunset. Sweaters, scarves and tall boots gradually make their way to the front of the closet, while swimsuits move to the off-season drawer. The trees start to turn my favorite shades of red and orange. I make Julia Child’s housewarming recipe for boeuf bourguignon. My kids go back to school (well, in August, technically) just at the time when their constant refrain “I’m bored” was about to drive me crazy.
Yes, I love September.
But this year, the silence my boys left in their wake is deafening to me during the day. While at first I welcomed the ability to work committedly at my desk, uninterrupted by requests for lunch, play dates and rides to the pool, a few weeks into the semester, I feel distracted by my own lack of new activity.
Normally I’d satisfy this emptiness with a new sweater or pair of shoes, but in the spirit of economizing and finding a more permanent sense of fulfillment, I’ve opted for a challenge. My personal writing has taken a toll. With the exception of this monthly column and the occasional post on my own blog, I haven’t focused on writing for me all summer. I’m changing that equation. Every day, no matter how busy, I will dedicate at least an hour to working on old or new material. After all, if I want to call myself a writer, I actually have to write. In the last week, this renewed commitment to my craft resulted in taking on an overhaul of my first novel. I’d started this project in May and shelved it when the day job overtook my calendar. I’m refocusing, strengthening this initial stab at fiction writing while opening my heart to inspiration for the next great project.
Soon the foliage will fall from the trees and the first frost will cover blades of grass. I will cave in and buy a new sweater or three, but in the meantime, I’ve got a book to revise.
Chelsea Henderson is an aspiring novelist and recovering Capitol Hill staffer. When she isn’t sneaking time to finish writing her second book, she advocates on behalf of clean energy and environmental policy, reads, practices yoga, and single parents her perpetually hungry pre-teen boys. She also periodically contributes to her lifestyle blog, the Chelsea Chronicles and is intermittently good at Twitter.