Ah, summer. The season of calorie-dense cookouts, crowded swimming pools, board shorts in obnoxiously loud prints and mismatched flip-flops. Despite the need to coat myself in SPF 200 every fifteen minutes I love summer. Love it. My writing career, less so. I am very, very fortunate that I get to stay at home and write full-time. I’m living the dream. Unfortunately, in that dream it didn’t fully occur to me that when summer comes around, the word counts drop dramatically. Some of the reasons why:
Kids are home. (Obviously the biggest one.) My children aren’t just off school for the majority of the time from late May to mid-August. They want to be outside and active (huzzah!). However, this is not 1981 and I can’t let my kids roam completely unsupervised. While I have a fantastically situated office, I can’t count on them playing within view of my window. And I certainly don’t want to keep them cooped up inside when the weather is so gorgeous.
I want to be outside. Colorado winters are long, and there are generally 90 days of weather that are more or less bullet-proof (says the girl who had an indoor Memorial Day cookout due to thunderstorms) in which to get your fill of Vitamin-D heavy outdoor play. Trying to make plans with a Coloradan in the summer is almost impossible because we have hikes, pool trips, and park visits planned months in advance.
My muse prefers the rainy moors of Scotland. Picky woman. I find it much easier to eke out words while wrapped in a fleece blanket while the rain beats against the window pane. Summer is simply too *bright* to spend that much time focused on a computer screen.
In my very first post to WITS, I talked about the challenges of writing over Winter Break, and they’re similar. The advantage to Winter Break is that it’s shorter. I try to let the writing pressures go over the holidays because it’s a time for family and togetherness. And while deadlines can make this hard, it’s often possible to budget in 500 extra words a day for a few weeks to allow for a vacation. While summer is precious family time too, it’s just too long to take off entirely. Full-day summer camp, while appealing, isn’t really an option for my kids at this age, and I find a ton of value in giving kids chunks of unstructured time. So, that leaves me with full-time Mom Duty. And deadlines looming. What am I doing to survive?
Waking up early. This is painful, but it does give me a couple hours of quiet time before the sun is beating hard through my windows and calling us all out of doors. Working after the kids go to bed is another option, but I tend to be in Netflix Mode after 8PM. The reverse may be true for you.
Setting aside some downtime for the kids. Depending on the day, I set aside an hour or two where they have to come in out of the hot sun to relax with cold beverages and cartoons. They know this is Mom’s Working Time and they have to respect it. Not fool-proof, but it’s a window to at least do some social media stuff that doesn’t require the same concentration as new words.
Planned activities. For a few weeks, my kids will have half-days in summer school and/or day camps. It’s an opportunity for them to socialize with friends and learn some new skills. And you better believe my trusty laptop, noise-cancelling headphones, and I will be heading to the nearest Starbucks to get in words for the 3.5 hours they’re occupied.
A few hours with a Mother’s Helper. Full-time child care is expensive, but I’ve found that enlisting the help of a young babysitter-in-training can be an affordable way to manufacture productive time. Since I’ll be home the whole time, so long as this young sitter is responsible, it works out well. Their job is to keep the kids entertained, safe, and out of my office. Period. In the event of an emergency, I can be there in seconds, and it gives the young babysitter the chance to earn some experience for their resume. I take breaks to make lunch and check in, and for less than the cost of a full-fledged babysitter, I get some writing time.
It’s always an adjustment. What worked last summer may not hold to the next, but that tends to be true of anything related to parenting. And writing for that matter.
Tell me, parent-writers, what are you doing to make your way through the long days of summer?
Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She has written three historical novels, including the internationally bestselling Daughters of the Night Sky and Promised to the Crown. She is active as an educator and speaker in the writing community and beyond. She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children. To learn more about Aimie, please visit www.aimiekrunyan.com.