by Angela Ackerman
Summer can be a tough time for writers. Sunshine lures us away from our computers, meaning we’re spending family time at the park, enjoying drinks on the patio, dashing off on camping trips or vacations…you know, instead of adding to our wordcount.
And guess what? That’s okay! We should do these things. Life is short, and we work hard. We deserve to have fun and make memories.
Unfortunately, though, many of us feel guilt when we aren’t writing, especially if we’ve set big goals to achieve by year’s end. As days pass, our internal critic grows loader, grousing about how our lapse in discipline is going to mess up the BIG PLAN. Suddenly we feel bad for diverting time to summer activities and that steals our joy, undoing all the good that comes from making room for fun in the first place.
So how can writers enjoy summer without guilt?
A great strategy is to stay productive by using smaller, irregular gaps of time to tackle other writerly tasks. We all have a ton of little projects we never get to, so right now is an ideal time to knock a few off our to-do list. Doing something that help us prep for the next book, improve our skills, or understand the business of writing better will make us feel accomplished, making it easier to enjoy summer, guilt free.
To get the ball rolling, here are a few areas you could focus on if you wanted to. Feel free to steal these ideas!
Full disclosure, I love lists. They help me stay organized, break down complex projects, and group tasks I want to complete. Often lists are made in a rush to capture ideas so they aren’t forgotten, but you can take your time and really think things through so your list becomes a roadmap on what to do next.
For example, take some time to list out your writing strengths and weaknesses. This will help you become aware of where you are now and choose an area to focus on for improvement. Or make a list of marketing ideas, publishers, or author services you want to investigate. Lists are great when it comes to our WIP, too. If a character or plot is giving you trouble, list out the questions you need to answer to set things right in your story.
Does your home office look like it belongs on an episode of Hoarders? Does your desktop filing system need an overhaul? Let’s face it, cleaning is always something we put off, but we always feel better when it’s done. Use a pocket of time this summer to sort your space so you’ll feel more creative when it’s time to write.
Is there an aspect of writing you want to learn more about so you can grow your skills? Or maybe you want to know more about book marketing, ads, formatting a book, or the different publishing paths. Pick a topic and use time here and there to learn more about it. There are many great books, blog posts, tools, and resources out there to help make your job easier. If you need a place to start, try this ‘Writer’s Secret Weapon” page. You can dive into many different topics writers need to know about.
There’s a lot more to being an author than writing a book - we need a website, a way to connect with readers, tools to help us market and manage our business, and more. The problem? We don’t always know how to do all these things. So, do some sleuthing by seeing what successful authors in your genre are doing on their websites, in their newsletters, and online. Pay attention to what they post, how they promote, interact with readers, and the apps or plugins they use on their sites. Figure out if some of these things can work for you, too.
Whether it’s for a story you’re planning or your current WIP, spending a bit of time thinking about your character can be a very good thing. Do you know what they want, need, worry about, and fear? Understanding these can help you better nail down their motivation, backstory, and behavior so it’s easier for you to plot challenges and plan their character arc. So, ask questions about who your character is. Get under their skin to discover their secrets. If you need help, the Character Builder is a great tool for figuring out what makes your character tick.
Admit it, you have a more than a few unread books waiting for their turn in the spotlight. Well, summer is here, so get reading and feel like a champ for whittling down that TBR pile. (Once you do, reward yourself with a few new ones to take their place!)
We’re all human and need down time. We shouldn’t feel guilty or apologize for it. So do what you need to relax, feel balanced, and refill your creative well. Happy summer!
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Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, and its many sequels. Available in ten languages, her guides are sourced by US universities, recommended by agents and editors, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, and psychologists around the world.
Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, a portal to game-changing tools and resources that enable writers to craft powerful fiction. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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