Midsummer has just passed; it is such a unique measurement of time and one of my favorite holidays. It does not get much of an airing in America but I still appreciate all of the interesting, overlapping associations. Pittsburgh is not really far enough north to experience especially long daylight hours but we have superb astronomy facilities, like the Allegheny Observatory or Carnegie Science Center, and wilderness parks where it is easy to enjoy the equinox or solstice. No body lights bonfires, dances or makes garlands here but a lot of traditional communities celebrate being mid-way between 2 important dates in their own ways. This year my mid-summer date is symbolically half way between term end and term beginning. After trying different approaches, this year I feel like I have found balance for my summer time pleasures and time management for maintaining my study skills.
Keeping study skills and habits sharp over the summer break is a good idea for me. I have learned to keep time structured in my schedule for reading and some kind of study, even if it is not as focused as regular term work. It is so much easier to resume a focused study regimen when term begins if I continue with daily reading and writing exercises. Continuing to block out study time each day means it does not come as so much of a shock to the schedule when term begins again. I set aside study time in my schedule and use it for reading, writing or fun activities that support my academic interests. This summer I am using my study time to think about the creative writing process. There is a lot of inspiration in my reading, film screenings or theater visits.
Study time that includes these kinds of inspiration allows me to indulge my curiosity about the writing processes, influences and inspirations of my favorite authors. I start reading by asking myself what I would do if I was going to write something astonishing, like the amazing authors whose work we get to read in this program. Last summer I read leisurely and selectively; everything from magical realism to theory. It was fun and truly memorable reading. Some of the most memorable things I read in this program were in the Approaches to Text unit. I passed that course some time ago, but I am pleasantly surprised by how it still influences my thinking. It also really opened my mind to appreciate genres I did not previously understand or enjoy.
Enjoying and gaining an understanding of new things is always a pleasure. Since summer time pleasures and distractions can be hard to resist I try to bend them to meet my study time management agenda. Summer time pleasures this year include ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at a wonderful repertory theatre and re-reading this astonishing bit of imagination. According to Park Honan it contains a large dollop of autobiographical irony along with its intelligence, wit and charm. Honan ponders how Shakespeare was able to concentrate and how he found time to write so ingeniously and prolifically amidst the distractions and stresses of early modern life. Shakespeare faced some mighty challenges yet he never put down his quill. It is a great example for summer time management, right along with his precise intelligence, salty wit and fierce determination. And he always managed a pleasure trip from London to Stratford in the summer.