When It’s Not Your Writing Season

Things I’ve learned while training for my first marathon:

1. “I’ll do my work first and then run later” usually translates to “I’ll most likely miss my run today and then feel like crap about it later.”

2. Ice baths are awful.

IMG_62013. It’s not a good idea to tuck a Gu Energy Gel under my running belt, thinking it will stay. Especially the salted caramel kind with the Yeti on the front because the stuff tastes like liquid gold candy and shouldn’t be wasted. (Lost this one two steps into a hot six miler. I’m sorry, Yeti.)

4. If I forget to bring tissues, either my sleeves or shirt tail will get very dirty as a result because I refuse to snot rocket. Re. Fuse.

5. Accidentally swallowing a bug and then imagining it trying to crawl up my throat to freedom really messes with my mind. (Huh. That would make for a cool picture book, right? No? Okay, forget I asked.)

6. If I see a certain white truck driven by a certain gal who almost hit me once (and flipped me a certain impolite appendage) coming toward me, I get off the road. True, perhaps I should stand my ground, but I don’t engage in pissing contests with big trucks driven by appendage-flipping gals. Not worth it.

7. Running + heat & humidity = less personal records, but that’s fine. In the summer, it’s okay to be realistic, adjust your pace, and if necessary, take slower runs … as long as I’m not using it as an excuse to slack.

There’s more I could add but let’s take a closer look at part of my last one for now and put a writer/artist spin on it:

In the summer, it’s okay to be realistic, adjust your pace, and if necessary, write or draw less.

This reminds me of a recent conversation I had with a friend who’s been down on herself for not writing more this summer even though–oh my gosh–she’s been completely swamped with her boys, their sporting events, and a bazillion other things. In an effort to ease her mind, I shared something my mother had said many years ago when my kids were young, after I told her how guilty I felt for not volunteering to teach Sunday School.

“Honey, it’s not your season. Right now, your season is raising kids and trying to survive the chaos. Once they are grown and out of the nest, then it will be your season to teach Sunday school, making the lives of other young moms easier. And when you have grandchildren, your season will change once more.”

Using Mom’s wisdom, I told my friend that during the summer, when her boys are out of school, it’s okay to be realistic, adjust your pace, and write less because before she knows it, they will both be in college and her season will drastically change. I told her that until then, she should enjoy this precious time with her family because really, isn’t that more important than a manuscript?

However.

I was being a total hypocrite.

Lately, I’ve been doing my own fair share of butt kicking over not finishing my mid-grade novel for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo. Over hardly blogging. Over posting this today instead of yesterday, as per our schedule. Over not being ready to start rewriting a young adult novel in August, as per my plan. Over this. Over that. Over this and that. But this summer has been kind of rough. And with our vacation near the end of the month, it doesn’t look like I’ll accomplish much in the upcoming weeks, not with my husband finishing a stressful job, my two boys getting ready for college, and a family medical issue.

In other words, it hasn’t been my best writing season.

I mean, sure, I did plot out and write 25,000 of that mid-grade. And I’ve read some great books like The Art of War by Steven Pressfield, You’re a Writer (So start acting like one,) by Jeff Goin, and 500 Ways to Write Harder, by Chuck Wendig. And while cleaning, training, or errand running, I listened to podcasts like The Creative Penn, Self Publishing Podcast, and This Creative Life.

Oh, and I got to have some fun with my kids.

Like this past Saturday. Since my husband and eldest son were working and my youngest had friends over, I decided to spend the entire day in the basement, using a giant corkboard to re-plot new ideas for my mid-grade and not emerging in daylight until I had written at least a chapter.

IMG_6328Then my husband called.

“Hey, I’m thinking of cutting out early and taking B golfing. You and C want to come along?”

Um … HECK YEAH!

I emerged from the basement. Plotting wasn’t accomplished. Target word count wasn’t reached.

Don’t care. Had a blast.

It’s not my writing season so I need to stop feeling guilty because it’s okay for me to be realistic, adjust my pace, and write less until September arrives and my kick-butt season begins.

So, why am I posting this now on August 5th, when summer is nearly over?

Well, frankly, because the idea didn’t come to me until my morning run. And really, maybe the timing is good in case there are other folks out there who have been beating themselves up for not writing or drawing as much because of their kids, vacations, stressful situations, medical issues, or what have you. Cut yourself some slack, already! It’s okay. Forgive yourself, move on, and get ready to hit it hard once your season changes.

But.

Huge BUT.

There was more to my original sentence, remember?

In the summer, it’s okay to be realistic, adjust your pace, and if necessary, take slower runs … as long as I’m not using it as an excuse to slack.

In other words, being realistic and adjusting your pace doesn’t always mean do nothing. There’s a fine line between cutting yourself some slack and using summer as an excuse to slack. Only you know where that line is and what you can realistically accomplish. For me, that line this summer has been less daily words, less blogging, but more reading and learning. And like athletes on the off-season, there are some things you can do to keep you in the game when it’s not your writing or drawing season. Stuff like:

  1. Reading lots.
  2. Journaling or writing morning pages as suggested by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way.
  3. Committing to writing something–however small–on a set schedule. Writing exercises are great for this!
  4. Reading a craft book to educate or a self-help to motivate. Right now, I’m halfway through Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention by Claire Cook, author of Must Love Dog. So far, it’s pretty awesome!
  5. Listening to podcasts, a fantastic resource! Besides the ones I mentioned earlier, here’s a list of some suggestions. If you can think of any other good ones, please mention them in the comments below.
  6. Catch up on your favorite writing or author blog. For me, that means reading all my bookmarked Writer Unboxed posts!
  7. And finally … how about registering for our On The Road to Sparkling Children’s Literature coming up in September and submitting a manuscript or portfolio for critique?

Whoa, did you see that subtle plug? That was a thing of beauty, right? But really, we do have some deadlines coming up that can’t be avoided. Like:

  • The deadline for manuscript critique is Friday, August 22nd.
  • If you are staying at the Hilton Garden Inn, 7226 Corporate Court, Frederick, MD at a rate of $159 per night, you must register online or call the hotel at (240) 566-1500 and use code SCBWI by August 19th to get this rate. Space is limited due to several events the same weekend.
  • Conference registration will close on Thursday, September 11 at 11:59 pm EDT.

Happy writing and drawing, everyone, and no matter how productive or unproductive your summer has been so far, please remember this:

Journey

 

Cross posted on Write, Run, Rejoice.

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About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two college boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She clearly likes run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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4 Responses to When It’s Not Your Writing Season

  1. Much-needed encouragement for me today, as this has been a wonderful, fun, and learning-filled summer, but I haven’t gotten as far with my YA novel as I planned. I’ve been getting a little itchy about it. haha. Thanks so much, Laura!

    • Laura Bowers says:

      You’re welcome, Lindsay! And you know, you could view all that wonderful fun stuff you’ve been doing as book research. First-hand experience is best, right? 😉

  2. Stacy Couch says:

    Thanks for lessening the guilt trip, and I love love love “The Artist’s Way”!

    To help spread the podcast love:

    1. Let’s Get Busy with Matthew Winner: http://lgbpodcast.blogspot.com/

    Interviews with kidlit greats, like Dan Santat, Tom Angleberger, Jonathan Auxier, Tammi Sauer and Betsy Bird.

    2. Narrative Breakdown: http://narrativebreakdown.com/

    Craft of writing, mainly fiction and screenwriting.

    Katie Davis hosts a good marketing blog for kidlit; Publisher’s Weekly has a kidlit broadcast too.

    Stacy

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