The summer is officially more than half over, writers, so it’s time for a little tough love. At the beginning of the summer, we make excited plans for all the things we want to accomplish, all the fun we want to have, all the books we want to read; but around about this time is usually when I start to feel panic creeping in. The summer’s half gone! How did this happen? How can I accomplish what I want to accomplish?
If you’re prone to midsummer panic the way I am, the first thing to do is to take a deep breath and take stock of what you’ve actually done. It may be more than you thought. So take an hour or even a whole afternoon and look back on what actually happened. What writing have you gotten on the page? What notes have you taken? What editing have you done? What ideas have you brainstormed?
Life isn’t only writing, though. Allow yourself to take stock of what other events have filled your summer. What activities have you done? What trips have you taken? What plans have you made? Which friends have you seen? All of these things are good for us, and good for our writing. One good gauge of whether you’re having all the adventures you intended is looking back through your camera’s memory. I usually start to get concerned if the most recent pictures are just of my cats in silly poses. If there are photos of other people and places, I’m happier.
Re-evaluate your goals and make some new ones.
Maybe you’re like me and after this taking stock, you’re not happy with what you’ve accomplished. Don’t panic — there’s still time to make this a busy, productive summer. Take a look at your original goal list and see if there’s anything you can jettison, anything that doesn’t seem quite so valuable anymore. Whittle down your list to the few items that you won’t feel productive without having accomplished. Circle them. Post them on the wall in front of your desk. Write them on post-its and stick them to your computer. This is your new focus; this is the rest of your summer.
All the plans and post-its in the world still won’t get you to write that novel chapter, or force you to sit in your chair and brainstorm. That part is going to be up to you. But if you build these things into your schedule, it will be harder to avoid. Instead of starting slow in the mornings with internetting, for example, try banning the internet until you have written a page. Or don’t let yourself eat lunch until you’ve accomplished some small goal. Don’t allow the tv-watching in the evening unless you’ve done something else. Plan to read a chapter a day of that big old novel you meant to read. Only you can be your own cop, so be ruthless. Don’t let yourself get away with murder.
Remember the imperative!
Just remember the urgency of the moment. You don’t want to arrive at Labor Day and discover you’ve accomplished nothing. There is something at stake here, and it’s your own sense of pride and accomplishment!