Earlier this year I decided to take a break from writing. I'm not working as a full-time journalist anymore, so it's a luxury I can afford. Yes, I thought about writing every day. I read about a dozen books during my writing sabbatical. I did some free writing using writing prompts a few times. But for the most part, I didn't write much over the last few months.
All my major projects remained on hold. Don't know if the inkwell was empty. Why the break? Just because. I kept teaching, kept living.
Recently during a 27-hour road trip, I listened to my thoughts in the way that a person can only do on such a trip. Your wife and children are all asleep in the van. It's 2 a.m., and you're still two states away from your destination. Nothing much on the radio holds your attention. The landscape is a running silhouette of trees, farm houses and corn fields. The words started trickling out.
Two states later we arrived. Still in the middle of the night at my mother's home. We transfer sleeping zombie children from the van to the house. We unpack the van, chit chat a bit with mom. Then off to feel the comfort of a bed. My wife is gone a few seconds after her head hits the pillow. I've only had four hours of fretful sleep during the trip - taken in 30-minute to 1-hour increments.
Yet my mind is racing. I doze off only to be roused an hour later by words aching to break free. I form sentences in my mind - appease them. Then, doze again. Half an hour later, the words shake me to consciousness again.
I form more sentences in my head. Paragraphs, too. I create mental outlines. I repeat the outlines several times. It's how I sear topics to memory when I either don't want to jot them down, or don't have materials to jot them down. My way of not losing material.
I close my eyes. Futile. This time the words only allow me about 15 minutes. I'm exhausted, but the words wake me in a way coffee, Red Bull or 5-hour energy drinks could never do. By 7 a.m., I've outlined three ideas for personal essays.
My brain is overflowing. Sabbatical's over. I have no choice in the matter.