Writing during the Summer

Summer means better weather, more outdoor activities and also more distractions. Writing during the summer means navigating these distractions. This usually means a readjustment of your writing routine.

Consider where you will write during the summer
You could take advantage of the better weather during the summer and write outside.

Decide on your priorities

Understand where your priorities lie for you. If you are burnt out then spending time with people could be what you need as motivation to write. Or, if spending time around people is what is draining your energy then taking a holiday on your own could be what you need.

But make the decision based on your needs and not on what other people around you are doing. Trying to keep up with other people or even what is happening on social media can be exhausting. I talk a lot about spending time in nature because that is what energizes me. But if the thought of being out in fresh air with the many insects and bits of grass that stick to everything is your idea of hell then don’t do it.

Burn out is when you are exhausted and are feeling like you cannot cope. High stress levels over a period of time can cause burnout. Holidays away from what is causing the stress and self-care strategies are all ways of combating burnout. I wrote more here about how rest can help your writing.

Prioritising rest to help your writing

Rest could be your only goal during your time off. Giving yourself time to recharge and remember what it feels like to have energy will really help your writing. If you have a long list of jobs around the house to get done you could end up exhausted at the end of your time off. Make sure that you are going to enjoy the activities on your to-do list.

Decide on your writing goals for the summer

It is great to want to write more. But you will need to break this into smaller more specific goals. Otherwise, you could end up feeling defeated at the end of the summer even though you were writing. There are many writing adjacent activities that will help towards your writing even if you are not physically putting words on the page. I wrote more about those here.

Reading can help with your summer writing

An important part of writing is research. Which usually involves reading. Even if what you are writing does not require technical details, you could still do research by reading in the genre your book is in. 

Reading could also be a reminder of why you want to write in the first place. Reading a book you enjoy is a great way to remember what you enjoy about books.

Writing with children while they are on summer holidays

One of the biggest changes for anybody with children is that they are on their summer holidays. Their excitement at being away from school can be contagious. If you are experiencing major stress at the thought of trying to get everything done while your children are around more then take some time to sit down and readjust your expectations. Look at the positives. There is no real energy needed to get everybody out of the door in the right clothes with the right equipment at a certain time. Mornings are so much more relaxed. And there is no homework! So, there is a lot less to be done in the evenings too.

One option is to readjust your writing goals so that you can spend time with your children while they are around. Then write in the evening or when they are at summer camps or playdates.

Another option is to go make a list of places and activities that would help your writing and do them with your children.

Some of these activities could be adjusted to include writing. Mine are old enough that when we go to the beach I can bring paper and a pen to write while they play. But not the laptop because I don’t want sand or seawater anywhere near it. So this is for ideas and planning but not internet-based research. It could be for reading for research or even listening to downloaded podcasts. Of course, this depends on the age of the children. I would not have been able to do this when mine were younger. So I took photographs and videos on my phone when we were out and about and used them as inspiration when I wrote later that night.

Stop trying to do all the things and pick the few that have the most impact
When life gets busier we have to choose what gets less attention. For me that is always housework during the summer.

Choose what will be less of a priority for the summer

Another adjustment to make could be that housework is not done to a high standard. My baseline is hygiene. Once I am not going to give anyone food poisoning then I only do enough to make the next task easier. E.g. it is easier to go to the beach if we have clean clothes to put on and enough bread to make sandwiches. 

When the weather gets bad and it is harder to be outside them I will get back on top of keeping a tidy house. This is always easier when my children are spending most of the day in school.

Chelsea Wolfe has more great ideas here about writing with children.

Planning Ahead for your writing session

All of these writing sessions require planning. I need to make sure we have enough food so food shopping needs to be done. If we need clean clothes then shorts and t-shirts need to be washed. 

But I also plan so that I know what I want to write when I get there. I look over my writing before we leave so that even if I only have enough time to write 2 sentences I know what those 2 sentences will be about.

Changing Routine for your summer writing

As I am writing this, Ireland is easing the restrictions after lockdown. So, I had a writing routine that developed when our movements were restricted. It is easy to sit down to write when there is no one else really looking for your time. And there is no travel time needed after a video call. 

But you can still look at your day and see where you can fit in writing sessions. If you know your weekend is going to be busy then you could make the decision not to do any writing at the weekend. This removes the stress of not getting words on the page. But now your week needs to be adjusted to allow for your writing. If you have set yourself the goal of words or time then see if you can break them into smaller sessions. 

Give yourself a week to experiment and track your progress.  

When Neil Gaiman was writing Coraline the only time he had available to him was just before he went to sleep each night. So he would write a few sentences. Sometimes he would get two paragraphs written.

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Give yourself grace

It is not about regretting what you do not have. This can lead to resentment if it builds up and can damage your mental health. Neither of these feelings are useful for getting your writing done. This is about making use of the time you personally have available to you right now. 

If you have only ever written when you have a few hours available to you but now that is not possible then I highly recommend trying out shorter writing sessions. Susannah Windsor Freeman talks here about how she found 15-minute sessions really helped her productivity.

Changing your process

It can be interesting seeing how your brain works differently when you change things around. 

The first few times I tried NaNoWriMo, I did not have any children. So, I could give myself a day or more if needed at the weekend to catch up on the word count. I could also give myself time to get back into the story if I had been away for more than a day. I was able to stay writing until I got tired and ran out of ideas to write about. Succeeding at reaching the word count for NaNoWriMo was easy enough back then. 

When I was writing with small children I could not write the same way. I was also sleep-deprived and lacking in energy. So, I needed to do it in shorter sessions. What I found interesting was that even though I was writing in shorter sessions the story stayed in my head when I was not writing. I would often end up finishing before I was ready. Often, the baby waking up was the reason I needed to stop. Thinking about the story as I was feeding or changing the baby meant that when I did get a chance to get back to writing again I didn’t need to spend as long going back over what I had written the last time. Full disclosure though, I am an overthinker so I am used to having multiple trains of thought in my brain at any one time.

Action steps for your summer writing

Look at your writing goals for this summer and make them specific and measurable.

Consider what you plan to achieve this summer – trips to the beach, hikes, nights out with friends, or even box sets with friends.

Look at your regular commitments – work hours, parenting and family responsibilities, when do you eat, sleep and rest.

Where are your time slots in around all of these – during your commute? During children’s nap time?

Is there anything you could adjust?

Like going to bed earlier to write? Waking up earlier to write?

I am in the northern hemisphere so waking up earlier is easier during the summer when it gets brighter earlier.

Is there anyone that would enjoy spending time with your children at the beach so that you could write?

Could you include writing time as part of your time in nature – writing in the car after a hike?

If you’re meeting up with friends could you get there early and get some writing done – even if it is just on  your phone? Or stay in the coffee shop after they are gone?

I absolutely believe that it is possible to write and maintain contact with the outside world. There is no need to compromise. An adjustment might be needed but as we change and as life changes adjustment is necessary. Sticking to a rigid routine that causes unnecessary stress is not helpful to our writing and is definitely not going to be beneficial to our mental health.

More reading on Building a Writing Routine

How to use other writer’s routines as inspiration for your own

The comprehensive guide to finding time to write

12 quotes to inspire you to write

Building a writing habit for beginners. Start your writing today.

How to build your writing routine in 5 days

How to find the time to write: 4 steps to help you write more often

Setting up your productive and inspiring writing space

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