A New Strategy for Writing in Summer

Writing in Summer

I used to think that playing outdoors in summer interfered with writing. Now I know better.

Summers used to interfere with my writing. There was so much to do – both farm work and fun – that I used to despair about advancing narrative projects and meeting deadlines.

But I do.
I changed my attitude about writing.

Instead of heading straight for my desk after morning coffee, I’ve developed a completely different strategy about these lovely long days, where I’m busy from dawn till well past dusk.

I’m writing all the time – just not at my desk.

I’m writing as I drive to the river where I scull on the flat water at sunrise, when the air is sweet and cool. I slide through the water, the rhythm of my oars lulling me into the effort. I see, hear and smell the wild world while I’m out, notice changes from one day to the next.

Close observation of the world – natural, urban, indoors or out – is a key skill for a writer, one I practice in my boat, in the garden, and on the porch.

Living In Place. Deborah Lee Luskin

A detour through the garden on my way to work can delay me for hours.

After breakfast, I detour through the garden on the way to my studio. Some days, that’s as far as I get. I allow myself to become distracted by weeds or feel obligated to harvest the berries that have ripened behind my back.

I used to resent the need to stop everything to pick and process and pickle when I thought I needed to be writing. But now I know that I am writing while I engage in these summer activities. I’m expanding both my experiences and my store of metaphors. Both on the water and in the garden, my mind is freewheeling, and when I do finally get to my desk, my fingers are itching to press the keyboard.

In summer, I’m efficient at my desk.

How do you negotiate the challenges of writing and play in summer?

Deborah Lee Luskin, photoDeborah Lee Luskin is a recreational sculler, amateur farmer, and professional writer. Read an Essay Every Wednesday at www.deborahleeluskin.com

13 thoughts on “A New Strategy for Writing in Summer

  1. Summer is always challenging in finding time for writing, since my daughter is out of school, and we haven’t sent her to too many camps yet because of the issues related to her disability. So Mom is the one in charge of keeping her busy! I don’t begrudge it, of course–you never get this time back with your kids, so I’m enjoying every minute. But that means a lot less time writing. So I simply focus on small projects–blog posts, mostly, and jotting ideas down for longer projects I can focus on when she goes back to school. And I try to do what you do–just notice the world around me, absorb it and take mental notes. And just enjoy summer!

    • I remember how hard summer was with young children: I had an off-farm job in addition to my writing work; my husband’s work was busier in summer due to colleagues’ vacations; when the kids had camps, I spent my day in the car; when the kids didn’t have camps, I spent my days with them and thinking about all the other things I wasn’t getting done. I was exhausted and frustrated all the time and not always a happy camper myself. I wish I knew then what I know now . . . and I can also forgive myself. I was doing the best I knew at the time. Glad you can enjoy your summer and absorb your ideas for when you have more writing time in the fall.

  2. I find it energizing. I usually write in the morning on my one writing day. A hike, long walk or run outside is my reward for completing a post. It’s all about discipline. That and I love writing more than SPF 😉

  3. Thank you for this encouraging and uplifting post. Yes! I have for many years now had notebooks and pens scattered all over the place in pockets of jeans in winter and shorts in summer. Small compact they gave me opportunities to simply jot down anything that random thoughts may have inspired. What joy when the day came to gather them all up and look at what my journeying had produced. Because I’m older now it’s simply a matter of a daily journal entry as part of the discipline of each day whenever possible. Writing is indeed like breathing and a Gift of worth to make life an adventure. Enjoy your summer. We here have a ‘cooling’ down finally and maybe we’ll have two months of winter before the joy of spring and summer returns.

  4. This is wonderful and so true! It has helped me tremendously to realize that I can write consistently throughout the day just by, as you say, paying close attention to the world and being thoughtful. This gives me excellent ideas for when I actually put pen to paper. Thank you for this reminder.

  5. I agree that a mixture of gathering inspiration from nature, storing up visual and auditory goodies and writing as and when you can is a great idea. It works for me some days better than others!

    • Yes, every day is different – and they can’t all be measured by the number of words. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Sometimes, it just takes another voice to confirm your own. I used to worry that if I did not capture my thoughts immediately they would be lost. I have since learnt they do hide if I am busy, but I catch them again anyway, sometimes they are playing with others. I found you here by chance, nice to read you.

    • In a lifetime of writing, I’ve learned that thoughts always return – and that my meditation practice helps my ability to retrieve them on demand. Thanks for your kind words. I hope you’ll come back.

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