Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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July 18, 2022

How to Avoid Writer’s Guilt this Summer

by Angela Ackerman

summer vacation items includes book and reading glasses

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!

Angela’s favorite: Make a list.

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.

Get organized.

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.

Expand your knowledge.

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.

Become a spy.

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.

Get to know your characters.

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.

Master your TBR pile.

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!)

Indulge.

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!

* * * * * *

About Angela

Angela Ackerman

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.

Top Image by นิธิ วีระสันติ from Pixabay.

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33 comments on “How to Avoid Writer’s Guilt this Summer”

  1. For the first time in my writing career, I finished writing a book (#14) and I have ZERO ideas on what to write next. I'm trying not to freak out and enjoy it. Results vary.

  2. Some great tips here, Angela. I read the hoarder comment and looked around my writing space. Being a spy sounds more interesting, so I guess the office tidy can wait another day. I can feel the guilt lifting already.

    1. hahahaa! I can relate. We are currently prepping our house for sale, so I had to go through my office in case people are opening cupboards and such, but my desk? That's a beast to fight another day...;)

  3. Such good advice. It’s impossible to sit at a computer in the height of summer, but last year, I had to, so I got up at 4:30 am and worked until 10 or so. Very tough, but worth it! This summer, I’m going to just do a bit of poetry and clean up my desk!

    1. Nothing wrong with this! We can always find things to do that move our career forward, inspire us, and cross things off our to-do list. Those small things add up, and it can feel great to make time for things that always seem to be put off.

  4. Thanks for this, Angela. I've been cleaning my office and reworking the space and it is really feeling empowering.

      1. It isn't "clean" but it is more functional. I found an elliptical that fits under my desk... so I can get some movement and maybe get back to being able to walk better!

      2. LOL, had to do it - the thought of people coming into my office and trying to open a cupboard or seeing all the dust...haha! I feel so much better now that it's clean though!

  5. Hi Angela!
    Summer is often a time that I try to take a break and to think about changes I want to make in my writing journey. It has been a good time for reflection for sure, but hasn't included as much writing as I had hoped.

    Thanks for the writerly permission to enjoy and indulge. I'm sure these times of pause will inspire my next steps for sure. And I hope you have a relaxing summer as well.
    Kris

    1. I really do think breaks can be healthy, and so I am glad you take the time to think about what's next for you. Summer is a great time to do that because we have a bit more headspace I think because 'summer mode' is naturally a bit slower and relaxed. 🙂

  6. Thank you, Angela, for this post. I needed to hear this. I've been published since 2010, and indie publishing since the beginning of 2017. I juggled that with my library day job until I retired in December 2019. Until late 2020, I was writing fantasy and science fiction, and constantly trying to write and publish faster, and constantly stressing out about it.

    My passion is now mystery, but I've still let my internal critic yell at me to write faster, and not take indulge myself. I'm 61 and writing mystery is what I want to do for the rest of my life. You're right, we all need to stop and smell the roses and enjoy life, especially in summer 🙂

    1. Lock your inner critic into a room full of clowns and them do what's right for you, LOL! Life is about balance, and the older I get, the more I understand that. It sounds like you've found what you want to write and just have to remind your inner critic that publishing is not a race and to just enjoy each the process of creating each book. 🙂

  7. Angela, I am being derailed by volleyball camp! The carpooling 4x/day is killing me. However, my girlie won't be "little" for much longer so I try to rind myself of that.

    I have been the writer with no writing space since the pandemic so one of things I'm considering is a portable setup in the dining room. I'll keep you posted!

    1. For a long time I had a desk in a corner of the bedroom. In one place we lived, we turned the closet into my writing space. It was tiny and dark, but it worked. For a while, I had a larger space, but life changed and then I was without a space again. My husband framed in a corner of our garage and that's where I'm at now. I love it. It has challenges maintaining an acceptable temperature, but...these things can be managed. (He added another heater after I got chillblains one winter!) I've thought that noise cancelling headphones are an amazing invention that I wish I'd had when my space didn't have a door...

    2. That sounds like a good solution, Jenny. It would be great if you could create a setup for yourself that feels like "your space" even if it's not your own office. And yes at certain times it is hard with kids, but you have it right -- they grow up so fast. You want to enjoy every drop of time you can, because one day you'll be me with kids grown, wishing you could go back just for a little while. 😉

  8. These are great tips and reminders that life is for living first and writing second. It's also in those moments of living to the fullest where we find inspiration for our stories. SO GO OUT AND LIVE!

  9. Great suggestions, Angela!

    I've discovered that after cleaning the house before visitors come to stay for an extended time I am less stressed with less clutter. Much as I dislike it, keeping a tad neater has freed up my creative brain and I started painting again!

    Next to get to all those books. I've read all the ones I promised to review and now need to get to the others.

    I like your suggestion to take some guilt free down time. I think a lot of us forget how important that is.

    1. It's so true - we do need downtime. It's hard to do I think because we always think about all the stuff waiting to be done but the truth is that will never change. The only way we will be able to live all the parts of our lives is if we make room for them, and that includes downtime! 🙂

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