After what (for some of us, at least) felt like the longest, coldest, and most miserable winter we can recall, the appearance of summer is more than just longer, warmer days and a return to the outdoors. It’s a chance to breathe outside, to once again find those things that bring us joy, and for many us, a chance to finally reconnect with friends and family, nature, and all those activities that we’ve been missing.
My question to you, writers and authors, is this: How is your writing practice doing compared to its pre-pandemic days?
For while some authors were able to dig deep and remain productive, many others were snowed in by stress, worry, childcare, instability, depression, and watching others bake elaborate breads while they could barely manage to reheat a day-old cup of coffee.
Are you back in good form...or are you still worn out, exhausted, and wary of reaching for normalcy before you’re ready? Or maybe you’re just waiting to feel excited or inspired again.
The truth is, the only things some of us are finding at our writing desks are our writing habits—not the writing practice we love or the sense of anticipation that this writing session will bring. There is only relying on our not-inconsiderable skills to keep plodding forward, enjoying a bit of respite from our daily lives, and then returning to them in hopes that maybe tomorrow, or next week, things will get better.
You might be suffering from burnout (check out our blog on recognizing burnout and how to fix it), but you also might just be missing a bit of that spark.
There’s nothing like the start of summer to shake up your writing practice. And with that in mind, here are our favorite tricks for getting your writing into the summer spirit.
Obviously there is an amazing mess of activities we all enjoy outside: exercise, long walks, bike rides, spending time with friends new and old, visiting family, and enjoying as much patio time as we can drink in. But are you leaving your writing practice at home or in your office, sitting at the desk “where it belongs”? Take your work outside. Whether that’s your backyard, balcony, or patio, let yourself write in a new environment. Not tempting enough? Bring along a cold drink, some of your fave writing tunes, and a tasty snack to munch on. Or try something as simple as grabbing a notebook and having a picnic alone in a nearby park. At the beach with friends? Take a walk by your lonesome self and scribble out some stream-of-conscious prose, or even some poetry. Capture the sights, sounds, and smells of that moment as it’s happening, or see where your imagination takes you.
Maybe don’t work on your current writing project this afternoon
Look, I get it. You love your book. (Or depending what stage of writing, editing, or revision you’re in, you might actually loathe it a little bit, and you are just gunning for that foggy goal of “It’s Done.”) But sometimes it’s OK to take a little wander and work on something else. Anything else. Maybe a short story or an essay. A series of silly haikus. Your creativity sometimes needs to take a little stroll in different lands. So if you’re taking your laptop out for a late-night patio session, think about what you can write that feels fun. Maybe that’s your book. But as much as you might need a brief change of scenery, so too does your writing.
Give yourself a reading break
In Canada, college and university students don’t get a “spring break” like Americans. Instead, they get “reading week.” Ostensibly, the week-long break is intended for students to catch up on course reading and maybe even read ahead, but homework is usually left far behind in favor of travel, sleep, parties, pubs, and generally slacking off. Sometimes I think writers also need a reading week—or at least a few glorious days of sitting outside, putting our feet up, and reading something for the simple fact that it makes us happy.
Lead a summer writers’ group
Have friends who are writers and/or authors? Know some folks who are interested in writing but scared to move forward with it? If you have the bandwidth, think about putting together an outdoor summer writing group or even organizing a daytime writing retreat in your community. Not only is it a chance to meet and work with other writers—but it’s also an opportunity to get some feedback on your work, help emerging writers, and also create a stronger social network of scribes in a field where isolation can become a routine that we never escape. Sometimes it’s great to have an opportunity to feel like a community, even when we’re all working from home. And after the last year-plus, that sense of community wouldn’t benefit just you but others as well.
Schedule a writing retreat for yourself every month
The truth is that not all of us have the same financial resources. Some of us are working full-time to support families and are writing on the side. Some people get financial assistance from loved ones. A fortunate few have large sums of money in reserve. The rest of us, well, we need to get a little creative. If you have the means, think about treating yourself to a long weekend of writing somewhere that inspires you, or maybe even could be a setting in your book. But you don’t have to have money for a retreat. Reach out to a few close friends and family members and offer to house-sit for them while they’re away. You could also create a series of local destinations—unique coffee shops, beautiful patios, local parks, or even a day trip somewhere that piques your curiosity, whether it’s an old cemetery, a historic building, a beautiful botanical garden, a museum, or even a library you’ve never visited.
Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.