Singing the Summertime Writing Blues

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
(With apologies to George Gershwin)

Summertime, and the writin’s not easy.
Words won’t come, and your brain’s a hot mess.
Your plottin’ stinks, and your hubby wants dinner.
Hush, now kiddies, don’t you cry.

One of these mornings, you’re gonna rise up writin’.
You’ll have an idea—and you’ll pull out your pen.
But till that morning, you’re gonna need a vacation,
With a cool drink standing by.

It happens to the best of writers. Summertime rolls around and all we want is a break from the everyday grind. And you know what? A break might be exactly what you need to get your weary writing mind back to work. Try one of these mini-vacations and see if you can change your summertime blues tune.

A Reading Romp

If you’re a writer, you need to be a reader; that’s a tip you’ve heard a hundred times. So you’re writing and reading and reading and writing and whew! You can’t remember the last time you read a book just for the sheer joy of it. So take a break, turn off your writer’s brain, and read just for fun. Read a children’s classic that you somehow missed in your youth. Try one of those bodice-ripping, makes-you-blush, beach reads. Dip into something so scary, you have to sleep with the lights on. And then read a handful of swell books in the target audience you want to hit with your work-in-progress. Hey, you think, I know what’s not working in my manuscript!

Now you’re ready to write again.

The Think-Don’t-Write (So Much) Break

It’s entirely too hot to come up with 60,000 great words. You can’t even come up with 600 great words. But maybe you can come up with 60 great words. Honestly, it only takes half of that number to come up with a pitch. And you don’t even need the novel to come up with a pitch. In fact, if you haven’t figured out a great pitch first, then your novel is destined to be ho-hum. So a summer break can be the perfect excuse, er, time to sit around, thinking up great pitches.

After you have the greatest pitch ever developed, possibly a steamy murder mystery involving cabana boys and Mai Tais, you won’t be able to wait another minute to write it.

The Write-Don’t-Think (So Much) Break

But what if you’re not working on the Great American Novel? What if your work is coming up with ideas? I know how the psyche can take a beating after sending out queries and pitches to non-fiction markets, day in and day out. You need a vacation, need to take your brain away from work and try something different. Like a light-hearted essay (Check out Chicken Soup for a topic) or a couple blog posts on a just-for-fun subject. Or maybe, secretly, you have a book in you, too. Let your imagination run wild and write that crazy first draft. It may stink, but that’s okay. You’re on vacation! Before you know it, you’ll be itching to get back to work—and writing what you know.

I do so love summertime. And the writin’ will be easy—if you give yourself a much-needed vacation first (and don't forget the drinks with little umbrellas).

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--I love the "think-don't-write (so much)" and "write-don't-think (so much)" suggestions.

Along with Chicken Soup, the Publishing Syndicate has their "Not Your Mother's Book" line of anthologies, and they have dozens of titles they're working on. Those too would make a nice break from novel writing...

Thanks for the post. As always, Cathy, you serve your advice up with dollops of humor.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh, thanks, Sioux! I actually get a lot of work done in the summer, in between little breaks.

Like now, I'm thinking of taking an ice cream break. That's what happens when I see the words "serve" and "dollop" in the same sentence. :-)

LuAnn Schindler said...

I'd love to take your advice, but I have too many writing irons in thep proverbil fire to take too long of a break!

I feel a major push to write - a lot - during the summer months since I'm on break from school, but I promise I may work a small break into every day until school rolls around 60 days. Yikes, where is the summer going?

LuAnn Schindler said...

**proverbial - I promise I can spell!! :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

I know lots of teachers like you, LuAnn, who make a big push to get a ton of writing done in the summer! I imagine just having the freedom to write--while NOT having to make lesson plans and grade papers--is a break, too. Feels like luxury...:-)

And P.S. Thanks for choosing teaching! I know some awfully lucky kids in your neck of the woods (or wait--farmlands, maybe?) :-)

Suzanne Lilly said...

I'm in the cab with LuAnn, barreling toward fall, frantically writing as much as I can before the driver slams on the brakes and kicks me out at the curb. But I definitely take pool breaks. Funny you mentioned cabana boys and mai tais...I may need to ponder that as I float on my raft next week. :-)

Margo Dill said...

I think I need a few more of those little umbrella drinks. . .;)

Donna Volkenannt said...

As always, Cathy, your gem of advice shines with lots of humor.

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