by Michael Bedford
Published at 2023-05-03
In southern Ontario, where I live, winter tends to be long and cold, and spring tends to be chilly and wet—find some more of my thoughts on Canadian winters here. Eventually, though, the trees start budding; the birds start singing; and the cold and rain give way at long last to the sunny and temperate time of year that many of us love.
Skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities are great, but having opportunities to participate in them also generally entails huddling from a blustery wind that throws ice pellets in your face. Bugs and excessive heat aside, going for a swim, a hike, or strolling the neighbourhood after dinner all get a bit more enticing as temperatures climb, and it doesn’t take long before that all-important writing project you worked on all winter gets indefinitely shelved.
So, in the spirit of keeping on track even in the face of tropical vacationing and backyard barbecues, here are five tips on how to stay focused and keep writing while still enjoying these all-too-brief temperate months.
Coming out of hibernation shouldn’t mean a complete casting-off of all responsibility and drive. If you’re planning on taking a long hike or some other fair-weather activity, consider taking along a notebook or, if you have a fancy phone, you could take your whole manuscript with you. The plan for these outings isn’t to involve yourself in dedicated editorial work. Rather, if inspiration strikes or some downtime presents itself, your trusty notebook will be at hand.
Probably the most valuable and practical tip on this list, making a solid effort to write for at least 20 minutes per day, every day, serves any writer well. Even if you find your efforts disappointing and unproductive, staying personally accountable to your writing work will reinforce its value over time. And, although perfection may prove unattainable, practice inevitably improves one’s process. The most enjoyable part of the 20-minute process is that, as the days go by, 20 minutes of writing often seems to become progressively shorter until it seems like taking just 20 minutes to write could never be enough.
Although the above tips will all serve a writer well, sometimes no amount of trying can clear writer’s block. So, when the well has run completely dry, consider switching gears and working on another project. If you don’t have anything else on the go, pick up an old passion project or start something new. Even if you find yourself similarly stalled on this new or old project, if you’re combining this tip with writing 20 minutes per day, then that all-encompassing writer’s block should disintegrate as you put in the writing time.
A somewhat counterintuitive tip is to simply take a break. Rather than obsessing over your goal of getting your manuscript to such-and-such state before you start enjoying the summer, take your mental downtime as a cue to give the mental machine a bit of a rest. Some writers will try to keep up their pace all year, or until publication finally comes. Just about every other career, though, involves some amount of vacation time, so make sure to book yourself some downtime or risk burning out before finishing your final draft.
I still recommend carrying around your trusty notebook, just in case, and to think of the 20 minutes of writing as more of an opportunity, rather than a responsibility, as per your non-break routine.
Shyness is an odd yet common trait for many writers, but it’s a trait that writers are better for shaking off. It’s possible to write something while keeping it secret from your friends and family, but if you respect the opinions of those close to you then there’s no reason to. Instead, consider what a few of your peers think of the broad strokes of your writing project. Maybe these conversations won’t go particularly far, but you might find that your idea piques your friends’ interest. And, even if your interested friends have nothing helpful to offer, at least you know you’ve got an interesting idea.
Plus, by talking about your writing project with an interested party, you’ve created a kind of accountability group and started a buzz with a potential reader, to boot. So don’t hide your idea away and let it die on the shelf in favour of attending summer social activities. By finding a balance between work and play, you can give your writing project its time in the sun while getting some yourself.
So don’t stop writing on the first warm day. Keep your focus in check by trying out a few of these tips. You know it’s worth it!
Michael Bedford is a freelance editor, copywriter, and performer living in Stoney Creek, Ontario. He can be reached at https://mgb-editor.com/.
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