How to Find Time to Write During the Summer

My inlaws' friend carved this watermelon last year to make the Fourth of July barbecue even more festive.

Last week was glorious. My daughter went to preschool every morning for camp.

This week stretches ahead, one unbroken stretch of mommying and playdates and groceries and the start of the birthday season in our neighborhood. We’ll have a great time–it is summer, after all–but I won’t be carving out three hours each morning to write.

Here are a few things I plan to do to make sure my novel gets a little attention over the next few months:

  1. Wake up early. Preferably between 5 and 6, when the kiddo and the husband are asleep and the house is oh-so-quiet.
  2. Don’t use novel-writing time for blogging just because a scene is annoyingly complicated. There’s only one way to work through a scene, and it doesn’t involve the Internet.
  3. Set reasonable goals–in my case, moving forward, regardless of word count or number of scenes, will be enough each week. If you need inspiration, Christi Craig of Writing Under Pressure recently posted a great piece on rethinking too-high expectations, “Maybe If I Had Those Boots: A List, Linda Carter and Letting Go.”
  4. Write whenever there’s time, instead of waiting for inspiration or “the mood.”
  5. Daydream about bigger chunks of time in the future. For me, that’ll be a few hours each weekend and a weeklong women’s retreat in August.

What priorities will jostle for attention this summer–kids, travel, the garden? How do you plan to squeeze in writing time?

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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17 Responses to How to Find Time to Write During the Summer

  1. “There’s only one way to work through a scene, and it doesn’t involve the Internet.”

    So true. I always remember the Alanis Morrissette song, “The Only Way Out Is Through.” I thought it was so true that I even took a chapter title from it.

    As for the summer? I have no kids, no garden, and almost no vacation time. So, squeezing in writing time during the summer is about the same as during the rest of the year, only warmer. 🙂

    I do have a major project, though, since I’ve just decided that, after four years, it’s time to take another crack at my WIP, my third novel.

    • Great song title, Anthony. As always, I’m impressed by your ability to pull from a vast library of cultural knowledge to find a quote that’s perfectly relevant. Summer–the same as the rest of the year, only warmer! That’s true for a lot of folks, isn’t it? I have to believe that summer will be this magical time after all the gray, rainy weather we had this year. Even with my vitamin D supplements, I barely made it through spring!

      Congrats on the plan to pull out your third novel and get going again. Sometimes a several-year break is the best way to sharpen your view of a manuscript. I had an 18-month break on my last novel, and it really paid off.

      • Thanks. Mostly people just ask, “How can you remember all that useless junk?” 🙂

        By coincidence, I once wrote a blog post about both of these points (remembering useless cultural junk, and letting novels sit for a while before doing rewrites):

        Coming back to my WIP, I can see quite clearly that a big problem was that I dumped in a lot of explanation of things that were not explained in the previous novel. But nobody who read the second novel ever complained (at least to me) that they weren’t answered, so I don’t know why I felt the need to answer them now.

        My new mantra is: “Just tell a good story.”

  2. I have a tendency to get online whenever I’m in the middle of difficult scene to write. I check my e-mail, my facebook, whatever else. Anything to just keep my mind off of writing that scene or chapter. I’m terrible about that! That’s why whenever, if at all possible, I write with a pen and paper instead of on my laptop.

    As far as finding time, I just squeeze it in whenever I can. My nieces and nephew keep me busy most of the day, so I usually write late at night. I find that sitting in the dark with only the TV playing is relaxing and I get more writing done that way. Unfortunately, it means I usually sit up later which makes me sleep later in the day.

    I have been bad about waiting for inspiration, but as you said, you just have to write when there’s time which seems like there is less and less of each day.

    • I am so single-minded when it comes to editing and revising. Nothing can budge me. But for first drafts, when I’m spooling words out sentence by sentence into the ether, I fall into the online procrastination group too!

      I used to wait for inspiration until I had a baby. Now I just grab the time when I can!

  3. I’m trying to sell my house right now, so I’m pressed for time, too, but I plan to write whenever I can. Five minutes here, fifteen there. Whenever my house is showing, I’ll take my laptop and my animals in the car down the street and write in the driver’s seat. ^_^

    • Wow, Barbara! I love the idea of a writer hunkered in her car, making the most of 15 minutes. That’s the “make the most of your time” theme I’ve discovered since becoming a mom. I fit the minutes in however I can.

  4. My son is sixteen and pretty independent, and we don’t have a hectic summer schedule, so finding time to write is not a big hurdle for me right now. What tends to be a bigger obstacle is keeping my confidence level up so that I have the drive to make progress. That hasn’t been too big an issue so far, but I do stumble occasionally, and… that first step is a doozy!

    • It’s all about believing in your story–and for me, I get a lot of that confidence from my critique groups. One met tonight and I feel much better about my prostitution scenes after reading four pages from the perspective of a madam!

      • Oh, that’s great! It’s amazing how much getting positive feedback can re-energize you, isn’t it? Especially feedback that relieves a specific nagging doubt or fear about your story.

  5. BTW, I love that watermelon!

    • The guy who carved it is so talented! It was actually a Fourth of July contribution to a back yard barbecue at my inlaws’ last summer. The other side has my daughter’s name on it, since the 4th is her birthday.

  6. Laura, Thanks for the shout out. And, from your list, I love no. 2 (am guilty of switching over to the internet way too often). Lately, I’ve taken to my pen and paper, since my laptop is too clunky to lug around everywhere (oh, what I wouldn’t do for a MacBook Air). While I’m not getting large chunks of writing done, I am getting more writing done on certain days.

    In two weeks, both my kids will be occupied for a few hours in the mornings, so I’m excited to see how much writing I get done during those times. Must remember: “no internet” 🙂

    • My pleasure, Christi! Your big break’s in two weeks, hmm? Can you get extra blog posts queued up now and then focus on writing those mornings? Not that I’m paying attention to my own advice… The past few mornings I’ve focused on my interview series. I have some great pieces coming up, but my novel has been just sitting there. I must get back to it tomorrow.

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