Every summer it’s the same: my brain goes slack, and my routine gets flushed. Perhaps it’s the weather or the house being a little more full and a little more noisy, but it is during this time that I really don’t feel up to writing, or thinking about it either.
Yet, this is the ultimate time to grab my journal and writing implement and head for the shade of the maple tree in my yard. Aside from my kids’ weekly music lessons, routine is philosophically chucked at our house and replaced with the question: “What should we do today?” I’m a serious fan of that question and the freedom it suggests. It invites adventure and discovery, a string of experiences waiting to be mapped.
The free time that summer gives us to explore can be a wonderful gift, but if you are like me, it can also be the thing that keeps you from finishing that draft, or revising it, or meeting a deadline you’ve set for yourself. Without the pressure of an assigned deadline, it’s easy to remain on vacation. That metaphorical summer isn’t helping my career, and I doubt it helps yours.
Summer tends to interrupt our routine, and when we begin to get stir crazy, it forces us to find a new one. In full disclosure, with my kids out of school, I haven’t even bothered to try and write. But, I need to. The writing beast in me isn’t fulfilled when it’s not being fed. But what has happened in our anything-goes days is that I have abandoned my writing. We have been getting up late, so my 5 a.m. writing time is shot. When my youngest takes his nap, I find that it’s the perfect time to play or do something with my older two, so that time is sacrificed as well.
Yet, without my writing routine, I feel lost and—to be honest—a tad grumpy. But one day when the freedom bug was being abused, I caught my husband and our older two writing out daily activities on post-its and decorating our kitchen wall with the colorful squares. There is no rule about the order in which each thing should be done—the day is wide open—but they must make every effort to do them. These things include: reading for 30 minutes, making their beds, reminders to drink water, etc. When they complete a task, they move the post-it from the northern side of the wall to the southern. I think it is a clever way to set parameters around their time and give some direction for the day without sacrificing their freedom to explore and play. Mini-goals, checked and completed. And the visual aid is very motivating.
While it is highly unlikely that I will find a solid two-plus hour window to write each day—unless I ship my kids off to a friend’s house—I can still follow suit. Over the next few weeks I am setting a goal to get in at least two hours of writing/research everyday, and if I divide that time into 10 minute units throughout the day I am sure I can move my 12 squares north to south as well. Mini-goals, folks, mini-goals!
As I have mentioned in previous posts, as well as Megan and Stacey, there is always something that comes up and forces us to change when, where and how we find time to write. Or even the desire to do so. And even if it is healthy to step away from our work at times, if we let our minds become too lazy, we can run the risk of not writing altogether. It’s easy to give up something if you don’t practice or exercise the habit. And writing is a daily exercise of our minds, our creativity, and our need to connect to a world that is larger than we are.
Find a routine, even in the freedom of summer.