It’s summer where I am, and the days are hot and heavy. Condensation beads the sides of my glass of ice tea. The dog rests motionless in front of the fan and the lines of my WIP, which should be marching across the computer screen like ants across hot pavement, are still.
It’s summer. The season of unlimited time and no time at all.
I forget this every year. September to June I’m mired by the school calendar, my days shaped by carpools and sporting events, by ballet classes and dance recitals, physicals and eye exams and parent teacher conferences and threaded beneath it all my own writing assignments. The days pass in a blur of one hour increments stitched together on my phone’s calendar, goals scribbled in my bullet journal at the beginning of year and the month adding meaning and shape. I block time for my novel the same way I schedule vet appointments, dutifully and at regular intervals.
But in summer, time unspools like a ribbon. The car sits in the driveway. The computer stays in its case. I tell myself there will be plenty of time for writing after the beach, after ice cream, after one last late night of playing cards with old friends and swimming in my parents’ pool and walking out at midnight to see the stars. Tomorrow I’ll rise early and get those last 100 pages done. I have plenty of time.
And then it’s four days before August, three weeks before the start of school madness again and I’ve accomplished absolutely no writing. I feel guilty and lazy and worthless. But I’m still staying up late watching movies and playing cards, I’m still going to the beach and pool instead of sitting in front of my computer, I’m still sleeping in and going on ice cream runs.
So if you are like me, how to get back on the writing wagon? More importantly, how to WANT to get back on that wagon again?
Here are a few tricks I’ve found that help:
- Revisit my motivation. For me, that means pulling out my bullet journal and looking at what I wrote in January when the year was shiny and new. I think about how I felt then, all hopeful and eager, and how I will feel in December if I haven’t accomplished those goals.
- Reassess my goals. (Jan O’Hara’s post on this process was excellent.) Perhaps I can’t keep the exact same momentum that I did during the school year, but I can adjust my weekly writing goals so that I am still accomplishing something, and then make up the difference later in the year.
- Find structure. My kids have summer homework, so I’m trying to write when they work on it, even if it is just for 20 minutes a day. In theory it sets a good example for them, and in practice I’m pulling motivation from them as well. (If you don’t have teenagers, a writing group or accountability group can offer the same benefits minus the parental angst.)
- Find your inner superhero. Recently a bunch of writing friends were lamenting our lack of progress this summer. Some of us have children, some of us have older relatives who need care, a few are recovering from illnesses, and some are just taking time off. One wise writer told us that her superpower is being easy on herself, and she wished she could gift that power to all of us. Life events and detours and distractions happen, and we shouldn’t feel bad about attending to them even if it is at the expense of our writing.
I may not be quite there yet, but self-forgiveness is an important power to have. And if I’m not writing, I need to try and fully embrace whatever I’ve chosen to do instead. Otherwise, I’m not serving either activity — or myself — well.
Now if you’ll excuse me, the waves are calling.
Do you have tricks for getting back on track when faced with writing distractions? And what’s your writing superpower?