At the conclusion of every school year and amid the transition from spring to summer, I find myself in a slump. Routines are shot. Consistency has relinquished its place to complacency and habits shed their dying foliage for lighter, prettier flowers of procrastination. Maybe its just summertime? Maybe its just moms who write? Maybe its just an excuse to take a break from the discipline and forget self control.
Whatever happens...I lose my way for a few days, a week, or more. Returning to my routine usually starts with putting my kids, my chores and my writing back into a construct or program with boundaries that are clearly defined. relocating these boundaries and programs is the hard part. Where do I begin?
According to best-selling, accomplished, and successful writers...there isn't one way.
Super helpful, right? They don't all use the same tools to accomplish their good habits, but they all have one thing in common...They do it everyday.
From interviews with E.B. White, Maya Angelou, Henry Miller, Kurt Vonnigut, Jody Piccolt and many others, I've found some solid threads on which to build a list of ways to slip my summer slump.
#1-Pick a time of day and devote it to writing. Some of these authors write first thing in the morning. Some write late at night, after breakfast, before sunrise, after dawn and before noon. In different places, with different background noise and at different hours, but they all have a part of their daily routine that is devoted, every day to writing. Figure out when that is for you and let nothing else get in the way.
#2-Write according to your program not according to mood. Your 'program' is your project. Your novel, your short story, your poem or your article. It isn't when you feel like it. When your bored with other projects. When the internet isn't holding your attention, or when a great story inspires you. Those can be opportunities to take, but no matter how you 'feel', you work.
#3-Enjoy writing badly. You won't find an author who says they sat down and whipped out their best-selling novel in a couple of hours without revision or re-writing. Because none of them do it. Jody Piccolt wrote her last nine novels, all best sellers by the way, after throwing away the first hundred pages until she found her first page. Forgive yourself for writing less-than-stellar work. Just write. Write using poor grammar. Write a lame, overused storyline. Write bad poetry. Write babble. Don't invest your hopes and dreams into every word, invest in the purification of your talents, abilities and willingness to work. Write badly and do it with passion, zeal, and abandon.
#4-Disconnect. Some writers say disconnect from the internet so outside influences don't interrupt. Some say to disconnect from reality and let your imagination free. Some say disconnect from your every day life and become your characters. The common thread though is to disconnect. Immerse yourself in words. Swim in the sentences., Bask in the images your words create. Splash your whole soul in the beauty of language and 'be one' with your words. Even if they're bad, or something that won't be published. Listen to their cadence. March to their rhythm, and watch new worlds open up to you.
#5- Exercise. In order to drive yourself intellectually, you must push your physical boundaries. Sedentary thoughts begin with sedentary bodies. Every author talked about setting aside some time everyday to do some kind of physical exercise. Whether it was Maya Angelou's time in her garden or Kurt Vonnegut's push-ups and sit-ups. When the words settle and the mind rests, the body can regenerate and rejuvenate the mind with adrenaline, endorphins or pure sweat. Exercise brings your senses alive and sends your mind spinning. For a writer exercise can be a stimulant for the imagination.
Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone. One or two might make sense to you while the others are just unsolicited advice. It doesn't matter. If it makes you think, even if you think-"I can write better than her." Than the writer did her job. If none of this helps you then what does? What do you do to keep yourself writing everyday?
Repetition and routine are boring in their own definitions, doing the same thing over and over again. Developing the discipline to be like E.B. White or Maya Angelou just might be worth it though. In the meantime keep writing!