In a few days, my son will be out of school for summer break. He’s signed up for a few weeks of camp but unlike previous summers, he’ll be home more weeks than at camp. The deeper into the end-of-year crazies we got, the more freaked out I became over schedules. When am I supposed to write? I’ll never have that first draft done if I don’t have time to write! How will I be able to focus on details for the writing retreat I’m responsible for? It’s. In. September. Do you hear me breathing into the paper bag?
In a fit of planning, because I’m a planner (not a plotter, that concept still scares the pants off of me), I printed off the summer calendar and started puzzling in word count and retreat deadlines, and blog dates, because it all had to be done. Right? Right?
Wrong. Well, right but not completely.
At the end of each school day, my son would check off another day on the closer-to-summer calendar. His excitement was stressing me out. When did summer lose that sense of opportunity? When was the last time I had a real summer break? Okay, I’m not going to count that far back, but summer, people. Summer. Long, hot, lazy days, going to the pool, soft serve ice cream, reading in a shady spot. Summer.
The last few months have been challenging, to say the least. I’m at the point where I need to make some hard decisions and I haven’t had the time or energy or brainpower to make sense of my options. I need to regroup.
Hello, Summer. Perfect timing.
But I’m still a planner and I still need goals. I know, I know … making “relax” a goal on your to-do list isn’t exactly in the spirit of summer. I can’t help it, sorry folks. I need a plan.
So here’s my summer plan:
1) Read more. If you guys are anything like me, you have a TBR pile that’s threatening to take over your house. And still buying more books. With an active 10 year old in the house, reading quietly for hours on end isn’t realistic. He is, however, all keeping me on task, so I set up a summer reading challenge. We both picked the number of books we intend to read during the summer and created a tracking sheet, complete with smiley face stickers to mark our achievements (confession, the stickers were my idea – don’t judge!).
My summer list includes a couple of debut authors (debuts are a great way to see what’s being picked up by agents and publishers), a couple of books with related themes to my WIP, a couple of books that are completely unrelated in theme and genre, and a couple of books that have been in my TBR pile for way longer than I care to admit. Oh, and one writing craft book.
2) Finish that business plan. We’ve all read about needing a business plan. I created business plans when I started my freelance company, but I never really thought through a plan for my writing career. Over the next few months I’ll finish the plan I started and abandoned when I first started writing.
I know more about myself and my capabilities now than I did when I first started. I also know more about the industry and the various opportunities out there. For example, I have a story idea that’s not big concept, mainstream but there are a couple of small publishers who acquire just that type of book. I’ve been wanting to get back into writing essays so I’ll be researching publications (online and print) and story ideas over the next couple of months as well.
3) Write something totally different. Over the last few months I’ve started and stopped a couple of different story ideas. My brain doesn’t want to latch on to any of them. So for the summer break, I’m putting those ideas away and giving my brain cells permission to let loose.
I’m fascinated with short stories so I’m taking a stab at writing a few. I’ve been batting about an idea for a middle grade book. And I haven’t written a picture book in a while. Whatever I write though, will be for me. I miss the fun of writing for the sake of writing, for no other reason than letting creativity flow. Who knows, maybe by the end of summer I’ll have something to revise with an eye for publication. Or not. The important thing for me is to stretch myself and have fun.
4) Declutter. Oh the clutter! My office has become a dumping ground for papers I don’t have time to file, my laptop screen has become a shelter for homeless files and jpegs, my browser is crowded with open tabs of unread blog posts, my closets are overflowing with all the miscellaneous things I don’t know what to do with, and the brain … wait, what point was I trying to make?
The in-between projects period is perfect for de-cluttering. When I’m busy, I fall into the trap of jotting notes on any scrap of paper I can get my hands on. That means that when I finally come up for air, I have mini-mountains of paper scattered about my office. An email comes in with a blog I want to read so I click and open it then promptly get distracted. I’m afraid to look at the number of open tabs in Firefox and Safari.
My goal then for the summer months is to read those posts that are still waiting to be read, file or trash the papers that have taken over my office and family room and kitchen, get rid of the clothes that no longer fit, and fill my “ideas” notebook with the various ideas that have been flopping around in my head.
5) Explore. It’s so easy to fall into the day-to-day trap. Work, home, school activities, sports, more work, more cleaning, another sports practice. I was trying to think when the last time we—or even I—did something different just for the fun of it.
Remember the reading list I mentioned above? Yup, a book in a genre I don’t normally read. The weeks when my son doesn’t have camp, we’re going to play tourist. I’m lucky to live in a place where people come for vacation and yet, unless we have visitors, we rarely get out beyond our day-to-day requirements. I have a list of things I’d like to do, places I haven’t been to in years or—gasp—haven’t been to at all. And yes, I’ll be keeping my “ideas” notebook handy because you never what fun story ideas will be lurking in the most unexpected places and your mind is clear to finally see them.
Granted, I’m in the enviable position of actually being able to take the summer “off.” I don’t have a contract with a hard deadline looming over me, I don’t have an agent or editor waiting for a manuscript or proposal or essay. But even if you can’t take the summer to regroup, give yourself whatever time you can. If you have a week of vacation, maybe that’s the time to pick up a book in a genre you don’t normally read or jot down ideas for expanding your creative outlets. Or do what I’m doing and plan a spontaneous adventure. 😉
Have you ever taken time off to regroup and re-evaluate? Did it help? What did you do to re-spark the creative juices and/or soothe an over-tired brain?
After years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet. When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.