details · small moment · summer vacation · writing life

A Moment to Inspire Summer Writing

Confession: Today I spent an exorbitant amount of time in a rocking chair on the back porch watching a mother bird and her babies. They’re tucked into a nest just under the eaves. For days, I’ve noticed both parents bringing food for the babies—tiny heads poking out with beaks wide open, chirping so loudly the noise interfered with zoom calls taken outside (and inside—they’re a chattery kind of family).

I was certain today was the day they would fly for the first time. 

One after another, a tiny bird would teeter on the edge of the nest next to its mother. 

Mama bird would shake her feathers—wings, then tail. 

Baby bird would copy her. Shake-shake-shake. 

Is this how it happens, I wondered? I made a mental note to Google it later. 

I scoped out the concrete floor below with trepidation. Witnessing the survival-of-the-fittest side of nature was not in my plan for the day. Should I place something soft underneath? A blanket? A pillow? A teeny tiny trampoline? 

The suspense had me pinned to the chair. 

I continued to watch, silently cheering the baby bird on: Come on! You can do it!

But then the baby would drop back into the depths of the nest. A chorus of chirping would erupt. After a few minutes, another baby would emerge to take its place. (Or perhaps it was the same baby—who can tell?) 

This went on for some unmeasured length of time. I had abandoned my work inside for this extended break on the porch—this break that showed no sign of ending.

I started to feel guilty about spending so much time engaged in such a passive activity. . . and then I decided, no way. Not going to feel guilty about this one bit. 

This is what summer is for. 

And this is something writers do. 

Writers study the world closely, noticing details. 

Writers ask questions. 

Writers seek story. 

Writers share what they discover with others. 

The indeterminate amount of time I spent transfixed by the drama unfolding on the back porch was an opportunity to strengthen my skills as a writer. 

Building time into our summer days to slow down and really see the world around us—to see it like writers—this is something we should embrace. This is worthy writing work. I wonder: Is this something we communicate to our young writers? Is this something we believe enough to schedule it in for ourselves (without guilt that we should be engaged in a more “productive” task)? 

So consider this an invitation. An invitation to seek out the magic happening in your own environment. An invitation to fuel your writing life with small moments that help you to appreciate all that is worth writing about. An invitation to encourage a young writer (or a group of young writers) to do the same. 

The time I spent outside closely studying those birds was joyful, and it fired me up to write. It inspired me to look more carefully at other small moments across the day.

No doubt I will have an eye on that nest tomorrow. Tomorrow just might be the day those baby birds decide they’re ready to fly!

4 thoughts on “A Moment to Inspire Summer Writing

  1. This sums it up, Amy! You know, I had started to berate myself for not doing more with the time I had, but you are right. There truly is something to be said for that writer’s skill of sitting and allowing ourselves to notice things as they unfold. As for the birds, you’ll have to keep us posted! It reminds me of waiting for a child to be able to crawl or walk. They get so close, so close, so much closer, and we want to be there for THAT moment. And…now that I think about it, here’s what fills me with wonder. Every single bird we see flying around went through that process that you watch now. I’m going to carry that idea in my pocket today…

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  2. Just two more weeks and your words and inspiration will appear live before my eyes! I’m giving the gifts of journals to all the eighth graders I work closely with. And keeping one for myself. Thank you for opening the window to summer days!

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  3. Yes! Thank you for this reminder. I love your description of the baby birds, but more importantly your prompting to take time this summer to observe the world closely and write! I’m so looking forward to slow summer mornings and my notebook!

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