I’m all for respecting the rhythms of the year. When it seems that the whole world is on vacation, I feel like going on vacation too. Working this “logic” into a writing life can be tricky, especially if the summer is your main time to write.
If you’re a teacher, say, or have saved your three weeks of holidays from your nursing job to finally get to that writing project, you’ll want to use those long summer days for writing. Just so you know, this blog post is not for you. It’s for the self-indulgent rest of us who do have time and opportunity to write all fall, winter, and spring, and who want to take a summer break. It’s for those of us who, though we can’t totally avoid the pull of our laptops, don’t want to take them with us to the beach either.
Over the last few years I’ve found what works best to keep me friends with writing but not married to it is to acknowledge my desire, yes even need for a vacation, set low, achievable goals, and mix the writing with summer stuff I love to do.
In August of 2014, for example, when our house needed a month-long renovation after an accidental flood, I kept in touch with writing by composing a daily tanka poem about something I experienced or saw on my daily morning walk.
(Why tanka? After spending two weeks prior to the accident in Dawson Creek and walking often beside the tanka-engraved rocks along the Dawson Trail, I had to try my own hand at writing them. To see more of these Dawson Trail tanka, go HERE and HERE.)
One of the Dawson Trail tanka – Photo © 2014 by V. Nesdoly
A fence of sparrows / Birdbath ice holds yellow leaf / Feeder is empty
Wind blows grass stalks, rattling / Seed pods. Tiny castanets
Last summer I used the day’s events and the photos I took on vacation as prompts for haiku or senryu. These short poems even became a sort of journal. Our granddaughter was born during that time and here is the photo I took and its related poem for the day after her birth.
Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly
Clouds reflecting / this day’s memories / all rosy
This year I’m doing something similar. The daily photo challenges I’ve been working on (from Capture Your 365) give me a camera subject. I’ve set a goal to write a short poem (maximum 6 lines) of any style sparked by the day’s photo. I began this project on the first day of summer and hope to carry on till the last. I call it my Summer Shorts Project.
(I’ve created a Notebook in Evernote for it, where I can send my daily photos and compose my lines using my laptop or iPad.)
So, my advice about summer writing would be:
Respect your rhythms. If you need a complete break, give yourself one. You may save yourself a bout of self-pity later if you do.
Maintain realistic expectations of yourself. If you’re hosting a houseful or lounging around at the lake with the family, don’t set a goal to spend 5 hours a day at your desk as well. You probably won’t enjoy any of it—the guests, the beach, or the writing.
As much as possible, mix your writing with summer pleasures. You’ll enjoy those lovely days with purpose, experience less guilt, and your writing will be the richer for it.
Violet Nesdoly lives near Vancouver B.C. and has been active in freelance writing for 20 years. She has had articles, stories, poetry, reviews, and devotions published in a variety of print and online publications as well as publishing two books of poems and a novel. She is enjoying a lighter writing schedule this summer after assisting in the delivery of the Fraser Valley Poets Society’s latest anthology, O Canada, published in June 2017.