This column explores the myriad ways we can — and maybe should — engage with our creative process beyond actively writing.
Today, Florida is a humid heat. The kind that slicks your skin like lotion and fills spaces that you body slices through, making a mold for the clone of you. My parents’ dog, Jasper, licks the lotion off my legs from under the outdoor table I’m writing on. His tongue lilting and soft, a tickle that successfully makes me do what I’ve been doing this whole vacation: procrastinate writing time.
All day we’ve been waiting for a storm. Not showers, not a gentle mist. But a great big storm. It’s about three in the afternnon now and still, nothing. The sun ebbs and flows in front of and behind the clouds so that every few moments we think it’s finally happening. Only, to have been a false start.
I’m like the sun today, then. Not quite sure what I want to be doing, where I should be. It’s my first vacation since the summer, and my first vacation strictly for rest in a few years. And still, I wonder: Should I be writing right now?
The ironic thing about this column is that in discussing my always changing relationship with the concept of not writing, I am, in fact, writing. Spending a few hours churning out around 800 words as a stranger gets eerily close to the house and yells “you idiot” at himself when he misses the put. Maybe I should write into that.
I caught myself thinking about fountains while here. When I was younger, and even now, I was obsessed with them. Transfixed. Specifically, with one fountain in the town my maternal grandmother vacationed in. The fountain was huge in comparison to my size, and would play music in time with the choreographed water. Lights did pirouettes that hypnotized me. So much so that one night, perhaps too drunk on ice cream, I fell right into the fountain. My mother had placed me up on one of the stone columns so that I could make the rhythm of music change with the stomps of my feet and the psychedelic lights got me high and before I knew it, my small body was tumbling underwater, knees scraping rock, eyes opened against the chlorine, watching hands explode through the surface to pull a body that was my body and yet also not my body up back into the air.
If I was home, I would turn to T Kira Madden or Sarah Gerard right now. Pull some quote from their history growing up and living in the Sunshine State. The weird way it pulls you in. I’ve never lived in Florida but I’ve grown up coming here, visiting my grandparents in the very same gated community I find myself in now. So there is a sense of homeliness, or perhaps recognition. As if I have lived two lives in two different places, falling in love with a different boy each season, watching as the once small fishing town transforms.
So maybe I’d say how even though I’ve never been to Arizona, I think when my friend Mackenzie writes about her hometown being both a blackhole she clawed tooth and nail to escape and the most beautiful place she’d die to protect, that’s how I feel about Florida.
But this essay wasn’t supposed to be about that.
It was supposed to be about how some people spend their vacations writing. And how I just genuinely haven’t felt like doing that right now. I’m not sure it’s such a cardinal sin to consider writing as work. A practice you sometimes feel like you have to do, but maybe don’t want to. I don’t think that means we’re any less of a writer, and I don’t think that means some of the magic is lost.
So far I’ve spent this vacation reading, knitting, sitting poolside, and catching up with my brother who is in his first year of college. We’ve laughed a lot. I played golf with my father and remembered those lessons I hated as a kid because I had to wear bermuda shorts actually did pay off because I’m surprisingly fucking good at it. And I did water aerobics at 7:30 in the morning with my mother and a bunch of retired women.
And yeah, I was sore afterwards.
Florida clearly brings up a lot of emotions for me, and rather than writing as it happens but also while I still don’t know what exactly the triggered memory means, I’m just going to soak in it for a while. Listen to the birds, stuff my face with citrus. Remember what it feels like to be hugged by the air around you. Walk past the condo building my grandparents lived in when they were alive, and let the weird mix of sadness, nostalgia, joy wash over me. Wait for the sun to peak out from the shadows, revel in its fleeting presence, and trust it will come again.