Let’s face it, we’re conditioned from a young age to associate the summer months with taking a break from everything and relaxing. At least, that’s what Americans learn. I can’t speak for anyone else. Regardless, the school system I grew up with enforced the idea that summer is a time for relaxing and having fun, not doing any work. Suffice to say, this idea breeds bad habits which must be broken abruptly as adults. Considering I’m still attending school in the form of a Master’s program, I’m having a hard time remolding my way of thinking. It’s led to an annoying writer’s block, which I will call my “summer writing slump.”
My writer’s block usually follows the same pattern. First, I have a hard time conjuring an idea for a story or I can’t focus on one idea at a time. My brain bounces from one thought to the next, never settling on one long enough for me to fully pursue it. Then I slip into the worry that nothing I write will ever be of significance and/or live up to what people liked in my writing before. It feels like I’m trying to capture lightning in a bottle, a fruitless effort. The end result? I get nothing done and I have to up my “as-needed” anti-anxiety pills.
How is the summer writing slump different? I have a built-in excuse: I have all summer to knock the rust off before classes start again. I don’t need to force the muse yet. I have plenty of time to get myself back into shape and have a really productive year.
Well, it’s August now and I’ve only written one short, really cruddy story, if it can be called that. I know that everyone gets into a writing slump occasionally, but I can’t let myself get too rusty or else I’ll lose my edge entirely. It’s taken a long time for me to create my arsenal of writing tools; it’ll only be a lateral move to let myself slip out of practice while my program’s on break.
Why am I telling you this? To remind my readers to never take too long a break from writing. Yes, a break can help you shake off writer’s block when you’re really stuck. However, it can also lead to writer’s block. Just like we can’t have the entire summer off from our 9-5 jobs, we can’t have the entire summer off from our writing. It’s a job and a skill. We have to be disciplined enough to maintain momentum in our careers and take the time to practice our craft.
We must also remind ourselves that it’s OK to write crappy first drafts. Heck, it’s OK to have all drafts of a story be crappy (if we don’t plan to publish it). At least then we can learn what does not work in our writing. If we’re too afraid to let ourselves write badly, we won’t write at all. Then we’ll be stuck in a perpetual summer writing slump.
Thoughts? Comments? Advice for escaping the summer writing slump? Leave your thoughts in the comments and remember to sign up for our newsletter for a chance at the monthly giveaway.