This post was written by Lynn Burton.
It’s that time of year, summer! At least where I am. If you’re somewhere that’s experiencing cooler temperatures, and by cooler, I mean less than 90 degrees, I envy you. It’s so blistering hot right now!
I used to love summer. Mainly because it meant no school, but it also meant more sunlight, staying up late, and sleeping in. My favorite part of summer was hanging out at the pool. I don’t have all those luxuries anymore. In fact, just today, I lined up five writing projects that I want to work on.
I know myself, at least one of these projects probably won’t get written, and that’s okay. You have to know yourself and what you’re capable of accomplishing. Sometimes we also surprise ourselves and push farther than our limits. I love it when that happens. Just the other day, a poetry prompt that presented itself had me immediately shying away. I can’t think of anything to write about. I’m not good enough. I’ll just skip it. Ah, yes, the old inner critic strikes again. But for some reason the prompt stayed in the back of my mind and I couldn’t let it go. Once I started writing, the words flowed like water from a fountain. I was pleased with the result and glad I hadn’t given up. The more times we skip writing, the easier it is to skip the next day and the next, and before you know it the writing muscle becomes flabbier than Aunt Gertrude’s backside.
Whether you’re the kind of writer that takes a dive and sinks straight to the deep end of that glistening summer pool, or you tackle it with a cannonball, causing a huge splash and lots of fun, here’s 10 tips that will hopefully help you stay afloat.
- Balance. Not so much a tight rope act, although sometimes it might feel that way, finding the right balance that works for you is important. Too often we get swept away by life. Everything but your writing becomes a priority. Make writing a priority. I find myself with less time to write than I ever did, but I have to set aside the time, and commit to writing. If you have no time in the day other than that one peaceful hour before everything becomes chaos, or after the chaos is reined in, that’s the time to write. You’ll find a way if it’s important enough.
- Schedule. Look at your calendar. On any given day, it’s probably filled with all kinds of obligations from family and friends to work and play. See what you can cut out or at the very least limit. If you and a friend meet three days a week for coffee and chit chat, tell the friend that you have work to do and you can only meet once a week. They should understand. Stick to whatever schedule you make for yourself.
- Read. You have to read to be able to write. When I first started writing, I was lucky enough to have someone explain a few things to me. One of those things was that I “should no longer be reading for enjoyment.” This was a foreign idea to me, but it quickly made sense. I was a voracious reader but never paid much attention to what made me like or dislike a book. How did the author handle dialogue? Description? Pacing? If you’re a beginning writer, take some time to study that favorite book. Look at it with a more critical eye. This is not to say you can’t enjoy reading anymore. I certainly read for enjoyment, just as I did before I started writing, but I have a better appreciation of what makes a good book, and what makes a great book.
- Tools. Reading is a tool. Books on writing are tools. There are numerous writer tools out there in the form of software. If that helps you stay organized, do it. I’m old school and tend to have spiral notebooks and notes on index cards. Whatever works for you is the way to go. Sharpen your tools.
- Projects. Having multiple projects can help with those times you might feel stuck. Don’t have so many projects going at once that you feel overwhelmed. I usually stick with a rule of three. That way, there’s at least one or two out at a time, and inevitably one project can jog loose an idea in a different project. The more projects out for submission also gives you a better chance at something being accepted. It might be easier to handle that rejection knowing you have two or three other submissions out for consideration.
- Inspiration. It comes out of nowhere, but you should be prepared. That’s why I always carry a notebook and several pens wherever I go. It would seem the muse doesn’t like to sit still. While we’re going about mundane tasks, or those moments before we drift off to sleep, lines of poetry, or dialogue will filter through. Don’t let it go. Don’t think you’ll remember it when you wake up. I’ve made that mistake too many times. If I do remember an idea, it only returns in slivers of disjointed junk, not nearly as good as the moment it first presented itself. Capture it fully and write it down. You can expand on it later.
- Unplug. Besides the distractions that life throws at us, the Internet likes to take a chunk of our time, too. Don’t let it. I, personally, don’t use any of the social media blocking apps that are available but these can be great if you’re just too tempted to check that e-mail or whatever social media sites that you’re part of.
- Assess. If you’re lucky enough to be part of a supportive writer’s group, take full advantage of all they offer. It’s easier to assess early feedback when our readers are other writers. Mom and Dad might mean well, but they shouldn’t be your first readers.
- Edit. Before you submit, polish your piece to the best of your ability. If you need a second or third pair of eyes, great, but be sure you know how to edit for yourself. Don’t take the lazy way out and expect others to do this part of the work for you. Look for typos, inconsistency, shifts in point of view, wordiness. Cut where necessary.
- Rewards. After all your hard work, it helps to reward yourself. Choose something meaningful to you. Whether it’s a trip to the bookstore, a movie, or a favorite snack, having a tangible reward in sight tends to help with focus. For me, rewards are simple and inexpensive. I use different stickers to mark writing days. I like to look at a calendar page and see the progress in bright, cheery stickers.
I hope the next few months’ calendar pages are filled to the brim with stickers. My biggest project will be tackling a novel for the July camp version of NaNoWriMo. As long as the mosquitoes aren’t bigger than the 50k words I plan to write, I should be okay.
Reader. Writer. Lover of good music, fine food, and photography.