5 Tips for Making the Most of Summer Writing

It's that time of year again... summer!

The days are getting longer, the weather is warmer, kids and teachers are out for the summer, and vacation season is here. There are so many reasons to put down your pen and turn off your computer and go outside... which I highly recommend.

All work and no play isn't good for a writer's soul, after all. 

And, at the same time, you'll want to keep writing so you don't lose your writing momentum or end up finishing summer feeling disappointed about where you are in your draft.

Here are five tips for making the most of your summer writing, while still enjoying the play time you need and deserve.

#1. Remember Why You Love Writing

While it's highly useful to treat your writing with as much care and attention as you would a professional job... when we're in the middle of this expansive summer energy, it's a good time to remind ourselves that we're also doing this because we LOVE it.

This helps create a more natural fit between the part of us that wants to have delicious summer adventures and the romantic side of our writing dreams. To that end, even while you're putting your head down to write, play with matching your summer energy to your writing energy. You might light candles while you work, write in a café, or take your notebook to the beach. This is a great time of year to indulge your most vivid writing life dreams and make it fun.

#2. Be Aware of Magical Thinking

Over the last couple of weeks as I've developed our summer plans, I've found myself imagining doing a big chunk of writing on one of our vacations... And doing a big chunk of studying on one of our vacations... And maybe writing some promotional copy on one of our vacations.... and all of these on the SAME vacation. Talk about magical thinking! Even if I actually wanted to write and/or work during a trip (I don't), I certainly can't accomplish all of those things and have the time I want to have with my family. Sure, I could probably finagle an early morning writing session before they awaken, but I want my vacation for vacationing. 

Similarly, it's easy to imagine that you'll have so much extra time during the summer that you'll be able to make wild progress on your work. I think this might be a holdover from when we were all in elementary school and summers seem to last forever and we have nothing to do... just the way we imagine that a new year will suddenly have so much more free time than we had in the last one. But we don't. Even if you're a teacher with the summer "off," your days will quickly fill with all the things you've put off doing during the school year unless you're mindful about it.

Instead, be realistic about what you can actually accomplish over the course of a summer. See how many days you have to write, and schedule them accordingly with your summer writing goals.

#3. Give Yourself Time to Play

We're way more likely to do our work when we're also giving ourselves time to play, rest, indulge, and enjoy. And since summer naturally lends itself to those things, it helps to set up a nicely balanced bargain between the two.

I find that writing as early as possible during the day allows me to have guilt-free down time and playtime in the afternoons, just as I find that when I'm writing when I'm home, I feel good about enjoying my vacations fully while I'm away instead of feeling guilty that I "should" be doing more.

Work hard, play hard, is an adage that fits the bill here... but you have to actually deliver on the play time to make this work.

#4. Plan for Reentry 

Taking time off from writing -- generally anything more than 1 to 2 days off -- tends to create a bumpy "reentry" back into it. So if you go away for a long weekend or a vacation, think about how you'll reboot yourself with your writing when you get back.

In my Circle, we advise our writers to "go back to the beginning" of working in small increments of writing time if resistance kicks in when it's time to pick the writing back up. A little accountability goes a long way here too (we offer this in the Circle if you need help).

So if you return from time away and find yourself struggling to get back into your book (or script), try writing for just 5 to 15 minutes to jump start yourself again. You can increase the time over the coming days as rapidly as feels doable to you until you're back to your normal routine.

Use this guideline: The more resistance, the smaller the amount of writing time. 

#5. Have Fun, and Be Ready for Anything

Summer can be an "all bets are off" season. Between kids at home, weather variations, vacations, out of town guests, extra summer projects, and our own impulses to celebrate the summer, a lot can get in the way of writing.

The more you can be ready to roll with it -- to have fun with it even, like you're playing a "I wonder how much writing I can pull off this summer" game -- the easier it is.

I find that a lot of this is about your mental attitude -- if you're expecting your summer to be just like the rest of the year, you're more likely to get thrown off track. On the other hand, if you take an attitude that things are going to be more up in the air,  you'll be more ready to take the writing time when it comes and just run with it. You'll also be more likely to have contingency plans ready to go if something comes up, like having a portable writing kit, a flexible schedule, or a backup writing time slot later in the day if your morning writing gets interrupted. 

Have fun, writers, and happy summer!

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Upcoming Programs

The biggest summer writing stumbling block

This week I taught a class called “Get Ready For Summer Writing” with an eye toward looking ahead to the summer and getting a writing plan in place to deal with the various obstacles and opportunities that arise around the summer time, like the kids being home, schedules changing, more traveling and vacations coming, and dealing with weather changes like it being unbearably hot (or suffering through the summer fog here in the Bay Area!).

(If you missed the live class, you can check out the recording by signing up here.)

We walked through a planning exercise to give some thought to where we want to be at the end of the summer and how we’re going to get there in terms of words or pages per day over the specific duration of the summer.

I also shared some tips, tricks, and strategies to keep writing during the summer, deal with the challenges, AND have the summer fun we’re all longing for.

The biggest stumbling block

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making when it comes to summer writing (or writing at any time, for that matter) is taking an all-or-nothing approach. Many people think that if they want to travel or be outside or take care of kids or even deal with major life transitions, that means they can’t write.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The key is being willing to adjust your writing goals to match to your circumstances, not give up writing altogether.

Binge versus balance

While I know that some writers have a tendency to binge-write (and some people even advocate for it!), I remain highly skeptical of its sustainability in the long term, particularly for more sensitive types. I put in an extra effort a few weeks ago to get my script to my mentor in anticipation of submitting to a contest today (gulp) and even that extra effort set me back a bit.

It’s all a system of checks and balances, and while there are people who will tell you that balance is a myth, to that I say, are they highly sensitive or introverted types who need careful energy management? And are they finding themselves settling into long term burnout? I’ve talked with more than a few writers who feel burned by their own efforts, have started to feel like they hate writing, and even question why they’re doing it in the first place. Why wouldn’t they, when they’ve committed (consciously or unconsciously) to a program of writing aversion therapy?

Try small doses of daily writing instead

Instead, I like to see people writing in a long term sustainable pattern, including taking regular days off (I’m not a fan of “don’t break the chain“). It’s easier to maintain in the long haul, and helps keep your momentum and ideas flowing.

So if you’re looking ahead to the summer and asking yourself how you’ll get your writing done AND do the other things you’ve got your eye on, give some thought to a highly achievable small increment of writing you can commit to on a small scale. Even five to fifteen minutes a day will keep you in touch with your project and keep you moving forward. I’ve seen more than a few writers in my Writer’s Circle move to completion with projects again and again, using just small increments of time and showing up regularly to do the work.

You can do it too.

Your turn

What’s your biggest summer writing stumbling block? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

If you want more on this subject, make sure you check out my free teleclass recording, “Get Ready For Summer Writing“.

You may also be interested in my article on “Thinking ahead to summer writing“.

Join the Writer’s Circle

Join the Writer's CircleIf you’d like to experiment with writing in small increments of time, get a solid writing habit in place, and stay on track with your writing this summer, join the Writer’s Circle. The next session starts soon! Go here to register and find out more: http://JustDoTheWriting.com.

Warmly,

 Jenna

 

Thinking ahead to summer writing

While technically it’s still spring until the solstice, I’m anticipating the changes summer will bring to my writing habits and my life.

My husband will be home more (he works at the University), and my son will have time off from school. We have our two annual camping trips already planned to savor the beauty of the outdoors. The outdoor light shimmering in my garden is calling to me.

It’s an expansive time.

And perhaps because of our cultural pattern of having summers “off” from our school years, I often find myself wanting to ease up on whatever I’m doing, work a little less, and play a little more.

At the same time, I think those of us who write also have this idea that we’ll get so much writing done because we have more time off (whether we literally do have more time or not). In fact, it’s a common pitfall for many writers and creatives. We set high expectations around “getting so much done” but simultaneously are pulled by a very real desire (and need) to take time off and play.

And of course we want do to both really — and that’s what I recommend, of course.

But all too often it ends up being neither one. Most people, when faced with “lots of time to write” end up doing nothing. And then they feel guilty and don’t enjoy their downtime either. Sad face.

What’s a thoughtful writer to do?

Here are three very simple steps to get you started thinking about how you want to see your summer writing play out:

Step 1. Check in with your writing goals for 2013 so far.

As summer approaches, it’s a great idea to think a bit about where you wanted to be right now. Are you on track with your goals? Ahead? Behind? Do they need recalibrating? Where are you right now and where do you want to be by the end of the year?

Step 2. Think about where you want to be in the fall.

At the same time, you’ll also want to think about where you want to be when fall rolls around and summer is over, so you can actually meet that end of year goal.

Are you hoping to be finished with your novel draft by the end of summer so you can move on to revisions? Have a new script polished up and ready to go? Be sending your self-help book off with query letters? Have your blog posting schedule humming like a well-oiled machine so you can start promoting something new?

Check in and see where you are now, and what you’ll want to do to meet that goal.

Step 3. Now, adjust for reality.

Keeping in mind that you may well feel pulled to play outside this summer, adjust your summer writing goals to realistically match the other things that will be going on in your life, like the kids being home, or going on the vacations you have planned, or the time off you desperately need.

Then, design in a reasonable, well-paced daily writing schedule you can actually accomplish. Put it early in the day, get it done, and then go out to play, guilt-free!

Your turn

What do you see as your challenges and opportunities when it comes to summer writing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

And if you want more on this subject, make sure you sign up for my free teleclass recording “Get Ready For Summer Writing.”

Join the Writer’s Circle

Join the Writer's CircleIf you’d like to experiment with writing in small increments of time, get a solid writing habit in place, and stay on track with your writing this summer, join the Writer’s Circle. The next session starts on Monday, and registration closes TOMORROW, Thursday, May 16th. And when you register for this session only, you can save $25 using the coupon code SUMMERWRITING at checkout. Go here to register and find out more: http://JustDoTheWriting.com.

Warmly,

 Jenna