The Trick To Working In The Summer

Wednesday, July 08, 2015
Taking notes on Bocce ball at the beach.
So it’s July and the sun is hot and the water’s cool and the beach reads are calling my name. But I’m a professional writer, and writers don’t get paid unless they work, so of course, I’m deep into…uh…goofing off.

I can’t help it, y’all. From my earliest school days, summer meant freedom. Free to sleep late and to stay outside till dark, to play hard or to plop on the grass, daydreaming. When I was doing the stay-at-home mom thing, I made sure to keep our summers schedule-free. And even when I had a regular paycheck, I taught so I’d have my summers off. Working in June, July, and August just feels wrong. And so I have to find a way to sort of "trick" my summertime brain into working. Honestly, it's not that difficult with a brain like mine:


I love to read in the summer, probably because I associate that reading with long, lazy afternoons, gobbling up all the stories I wanted to read (rather than long, dreary months of schoolbook and homework reading). And so this is the time of year that I gobble up all the books I’ve been itching to read. It’s also a great time of year to catch up on all the best-sellers from the previous year that I never quite got around to reading. But mostly, I read the award-winning books from the genre I’m writing. And because I’m a writer, I notice things like tension and pacing and exceptionally good word choices. I’ll pick apart a plot or dissect a character. I’m learning while I read and loving every minute of it—and when I do get around to writing, my brain takes what I’ve learned and applies it. Brilliant, right?


All work and no play make Cathy—and you—a dull writer. We need experiences, the stuff that sparks ideas and informs our writing. Why, right now, I’ve got a book with a setting taken directly from a museum I visited a couple summers ago. And I have a character based on a girl that struck my fancy on a June tour of an antebellum mansion. The more details gathered, the more authentic the writing will be. So go have fun on your vacation—and don’t forget to grab bunches of brochures!


So, as much as I read and research, I still must get my writing in; I’ve learned from past experience that if I put the writing aside, it takes forever to get back into the groove. And so in the early morning when sunbeams and birds interrupt my snoozing (I have no idea how I managed, way, way back in the day, to sleep until noon with all that racket and glare), I’m off to my desk, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I tackle my writing projects, whatever they might be, before lunch because that’s when my concentration is as good as it gets. But for you, it might be late afternoons or even evenings. The bottom line is to get some work in—even if it’s just 30 minutes—so your writing stays in shape and those creative juices keep flowing.

I mean, it takes creativity to find a way to goof off and work, but if I can do it, so can you. (Happy summer, y’all!)

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--I do a lot of reading during the summer as well. And even though I planned on getting lots of writing done this summer, it hasn't happened to the degree I would have liked... so far.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Yes, to everything you said! Reading is my escape and always has been---I need the downtime afforded by enjoying a book. And even when I'm not consciously looking for the writerly stuff, I know my subconscious is cataloging what I see. Research...well, yeah. Didn't you see that Fireman calendar I posted on FB. I write Romance, so Boom! Research! (haha) And the writing. Boy, are you EVER right about that one. Especially when I'm working on a big project, even just a few days away from it pulls me out of the story and all my brilliant plot ideas get lost in the blank space I've created by being lazy. Also, I wind up losing even more time because I have to go back and read what I wrote way earlier just to put myself back in the game. It's a lot easier to do what you said and take even 30 minutes to keep it fresh. Great tips! And since I have your permission to go read... :)

Renee Roberson said...

I'm so with you on this one. After a very busy spring, I spent the first month of summer basking in the break from carpool and doing nothing but reading. I've read so much that I've already read all the required hours for my library's summer reading program (30, eek!) I had all these plans to really ramp up my prospecting, polishing up my reprint lists and writing magazine queries . . . but so far, zilch. I predict I'm going to panic in August just like I always do.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Sioux, I know you'll get that writing in, or at least your ideas. You keep quite a pace all year long!

And Lisa, why, yes, I believe I remember something about a calendar...:-)

But think of all that reading, Renee! Reading's never wasted!

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