Welcome to “Ask the Coach.” As a writing coach, I answer questions from writers about making the work of writing happen, tackling craft, business, and personal questions along the way. (Have a question you’d like answered? Check the details at the end of the article about how to submit one.)
Today’s question is about how to keep writing during the summer:
How do I keep writing even when I’m pulled away by summer? Between vacations, BBQ weather, busy kids, and an urge to get my house organized, I’m having trouble focusing on writing. What do you suggest?
This is a timely question, with the summer solstice nearly upon us. A common challenge for many writers is being pulled in multiple directions — whether it’s family, a day job, multiple writing projects, self-care, or just wanting time off, while also wanting to keep pushing ahead with our writing goals and visions. And summer can be tricky. As a season, summer evokes a feeling of spaciousness and expansion, creating both the idea we’ll have “tons” of time to write while simultaneously feeling drawn to get out into nature, play, go to the pool, and do other summer-focused activities. And as you mentioned, it can feel like an expansive time to clean and purge your house, too!
Here are seven ideas to help you creatively keep writing and enjoy the summer. Use them with a mix-and-match approach, adopting those that work for you and ignoring the rest.
1. Take conscious time off.
While I’m not a fan of “don’t break the chain” (writing every day no matter what), I am an advocate for consistency with writing — building a routine writing practice that’s hard to break. At the same time, I’m also a believer in taking For-Real Time Off. None of this sitting around feeling guilty for not writing and spending the entire day
deciding agonizing over whether to write. No. Make a plan to take time off, whether it’s a day or a week or a month. This means deciding in advance (not The Day Of) to take time off from writing, enjoy it fully, and immerse yourself in relaxing and playing. Come back from your time off with a restart day, just like you would with a regular job after being away on vacation, and expect that the first day or so back is going to be a little rough.
The key: Be conscious about taking time off, rather than “accidentally” not writing. Trust the part of you longing for playtime, while still protecting your writing. Go for what we call in the coaching world the “both/and” choice, rather than the “either/or.” In other words, don’t fall for the false dichotomy that you can only write OR enjoy the summer. You can do both.
2. Designate time for writing and time for playing.
Even if you’re not taking full days off from your writing routine, you can still get creative about making play time for yourself. For example, you might plan some fun vacation-y afternoons or evenings. Or spend weekends doing outdoor activities, while still writing during the week. This is a nice hybrid approach to summer fun and writing diligence, as are most of the following options and variations, too.
3. Write, but do it vacation-style.
If you’re writing in the same way in the same place, but you’re called to escape into dreamy summer days, look for ways to honor your summer vibe even while you keep up your regular schedule. Could you write outside in cooler hours? Create special summery drinks to quench your thirst while you write? Might you incorporate summer energy into the specific story you’re telling? Write longhand in a journal, while lounging on a beach chair?
4. Get up early to write.
Maybe you want longer days to get out and play, but you’re super determined to keep writing no matter what. Perhaps you have a goal or deadline you’re targeting. Here, try getting up early to write. You can decide the specifics, but if you get up at 5 or 6 a.m. to write, for example, you can fit in a generous chunk of writing before taking off for the rest of the day to play, play, play. During peak pandemic Zoom-school days for my kids, I was up at 5 a.m. every weekday to squeeze in some quiet alone time and writing time. It was worth the extra effort, no question.
If it’s hot where you are, you may find you prefer to write early in the morning too, in the cooler hours of the day.
5. Write when it’s hot.
On the other hand, maybe you want to be out in the world while in the cooler morning hours, and come back to writing in the afternoons when it’s too hot to be outside, anyway. That works too . . . especially if you have air conditioning!
6. Night write.
You can also flip-flop your day even further and write in the evening hours. Those may be cooler, quieter hours, too. For many writers, it can feel impossible to write when other things are pulling at you (including alluring summer days), and polarizing your writing time to either end of the day (early morning or later evening or night) can help offset both the temptation and stress of Other Things Calling To Us.
7. Check for writing resistance.
Let’s also not forget resistance. Whenever we’re pulled away from our calling, check in with yourself: Is this resistance tugging you off course? Again, either/or thinking can be a false dichotomy. It’s possible to do both: Enjoy the summer and keep writing. Don’t let resistance tell you otherwise. Deep down, you’ll know if what’s really going on is fear, doubt, and resistance stopping you. Remind yourself why you’re writing in the first place: This is your calling, this is your mission, this is your vision.
Then make space to play and write.
That’s a Wrap
While it’s easy to feel like you can’t enjoy the summer and keep your focus on your writing, I’m here to tell you that you can. Try experimenting with these ideas to create a workable-yet-fun summer writing schedule for yourself, and then enjoy the heck out of these summer months. I’ll be playing right along with you.
Submit your question to be answered anonymously via my online form here or email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for answers to selected questions in my monthly “Ask the Coach” column on the third Thursday of the month. And reach out to me on Twitter to share your thoughts: @JennaAvery.