by Nicole Baart
Summer is a technicolor daydream.
A hot sun, cold pool, dirt bikes, popsicles, and lightning bug sort of everyday fantasy where anything and everything is possible. If you have children (like I do), summer is a whirlwind of little joys and discoveries, and reveling in the mysteries of long, lazy hours virtually devoid of responsibility and stress.
Well, it’s stress-free for the kids.
For parents (at least this one), summer is just plain busy. Fun busy, but busy all the same. I recently told my husband, “I have no margins right now. No space for myself or even a moment’s peace because they are always in front of me asking for more, more, more.” It’s a never ending litany of: Push me on the swing! Take me to the library! Let’s go to the pool! I want to have a friend over! I need a snack! I want to go camping, hiking, biking, to the park, to the bakery, to a water park, to grandpa and grandma’s house!
Yes, I’ll bring you to grandpa and grandma’s house and leave you there for the rest of the summer. Just kidding. Sort of.
Whether you have small children (or tall children or no children at all) summer can be an enormous creativity drain.
It’s hard to charm the muse and even more difficult to get words on the page when the sunshine is flirting with your window pane and the world outside beckons so sweetly.
So what’s an author (or any creative) to do?
My ninth book, You Were Always Mine, releases in October, and though the learning curve has definitely been steep, I’ve collected some tips and tricks for fostering creativity and productivity during the fleeting and frenzied summer months. Maybe something that works for me will ignite a spark in you.
Use the summer months to hone your craft
It’s hard for me to find time to write during the summer, but I take a book with me everywhere I go. I snag 10 minutes of reading time at orthodontist appointments, the park, poolside, and even while I’m grilling hamburgers for supper. I’m very intentional about the books I read during this time, and they usually consist of craft books, novels in my genre, authors whose writing I admire, and books of poetry (prose means everything to me).
I may not be writing, but you can bet that when I pick up my pen, it will be sharp and fresh, ready for something exciting and new.
Schedule a writing “getaway”
You don’t necessarily have to leave home to have a little writing retreat, but I find that rather than carving a couple of hours out of my week here or there, I like to block out several days to focus on my writing. It gives me the opportunity to dive deep and spend some quality time with my characters rather than working piecemeal. I usually indulge in a writing getaway once or twice a summer, book babysitters for my kids or coordinate play-dates, and immerse myself in a fictional world.
These intensive days usually produce ten thousand words—or more.
Get to know your characters
I love to spend entire summer weeks focusing in on a character at a time. What are their backstories? What motivates them? Scares them? Moves them? What do they look like? On vacation or at the beach (anywhere!), I love to people-watch and pick personality traits, tics, quirks, and gestures that will make my characters walk off the page.
Rich, multi-layered characters don’t just happen. They take time and intentionality and great imagination.
When I do find time to write about them, they are primed and ready to tell me their stories.
Carry notebooks with you everywhere
I know this is a common tip for writers, but I believe it can’t be stated enough: have paper and pen ready at any and every moment. I jot notes to myself all day long, and find that when I look back on my ideas, entire chapters have already written themselves.
I love to daydream about my books and let the scenes unfold like a movie on the big screen. And when I take notes, I don’t so easily forget how everything fits together just so.
Don’t be so hard on yourself
Well, if you’re on deadline, maybe you have to be! But taking a bit of a summer break is a lot like a race car pulling into the pit during an arduous race.
School will start again soon and the days will get short. There will be time again for woolly blankets and hot cups of tea and marathon writing sessions that leave you both exhilarated and exhausted.
Happy summer to you, friends! I hope it’s filled with more good things than you can handle. And I’d love it if you’d take a moment to share with me how you keep your creative spark alive during these gorgeous months―let’s chat on the Career Authors Facebook page!
A critically acclaimed novelist, Nicole Baart’s work has been featured as a Midwest Connections book pick, nominated for a Christy Award, and earned a starred and featured review from Publishers Weekly. In 2011 she co-authored a book that debuted at #4 on The New York Times bestseller list.
Nicole is also the co-founder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, that partners with a sisterhood of churches and orphanages in Monrovia, Liberia. An adoption advocate and the mother of four children from four different countries, Nicole speaks on a variety of topics ranging from orphan care to parenthood to books and the writing process.