Is it me? That is, is it only people like me – writers who once loved school – who think of September as the beginning of ...everything? A time when, just down the road ahead -- yes you can almost see it from here – there are so many new books and ideas ahead, and best of all, plenty of time alone with a pen and a blank notebook page?
People joke about the "smell of pencils," but I really do get disproportionately happy when I catch the odor of a freshly sharpened pencil, the pages of a new notebook or – even better – a just-cracked-open book. (Yes, I'm strange; my husband says I can smell things other people never can, but that's another story.)
For the years between college graduation and when my first child started school, September had a twinge of sadness that I wasn't going "back to" anything. So I signed up for adult education (photography, antiques, cooking, gardening, computer software programs I never mastered), took sport or fitness classes (yoga, tennis), and occasionally even agreed to teach something I was moderately good at (horseback riding, publicity, garage sale secrets – don't ask).
Then suddenly I had school-age children and drove them both nearly insane every August (okay, I started in June), with overly enthusiastic school supply shopping excursions; right up until last month when my soon-to-be-college-freshman son nearly left me in the aisle at Staples.
Six years ago, I got to "go back" to school for real (it was July not September, but let's not quibble) for an MFA in creative writing and though I swore the first semester I would NEVER teach, a few months after graduation I found I kind of loved teaching.
Now I get a bit of that old September feeling several times a year when a new class starts, but always, I have a giddily predictable response to any class that begins in September, and I noticed that the writers who sign up often feel that way too. There's something different about classes that get underway just after Labor Day.
Which brings me to today. A new class starts and that means I have a fresh notebook on my desk, and one of my favorite pens (Uniball Vision Needle Point Fine – waterproof and fade proof, in purple). The class is online so I suppose I don't technically need a new notebook and pen. But I always do this; I label the notebook (this one says Boot Camp Fall 2012), and clip the pen to the spiral rings.
I use it for tracking student work, for ideas I'll use for discussion on the online class discussion board, to jot down names of books students mention, sketch thoughts on how to tweak the class next time and – this is the part about me being a writer who is in learning mode, as well as a every single writer in the class – the notebook is the place where (every time, even if I've run the class before, but especially in September) I work on some of the same assignments I'm doling out each week.
I like how the notebook occupies a physical place on my desk and what it represents: That I'm a writing student too. That we all are, always.
Now, go buy a notebook.