Columns > Published on July 23rd, 2018

5 Ways for Writers to Stay Motivated in the Heat of Summer

Perspiring in your underwear at your writing desk, you curse the ancient air conditioner that died a week ago. The repairman’s phone number goes straight to voice mail for the third time. That bastard is probably at the beach. Mouth-watering scents of barbecued sirloin drift in through your window. You hear your next-door neighbour laughing with her friends in the backyard. Before you can get back to work, someone texts you with an invite to a pool party. How is a struggling writer supposed to get any work done in the summer?

No one wants to be cooped up in a stuffy room when the sun is blazing. Here’s five ways for writers to conquer the distractions and discomforts of a sweltering summer.

1. Get Up Stupid Early

Set your alarm for the middle of the night. Drag your sorry ass out of bed and start writing until an hour passes. You will hate it the first few times, but soon you’ll realize how effective it is. Before dawn, it’s cool, quiet and there are no distractions. No one is calling you, no one is doing anything fun, and no one needs your attention. When the hour expires, you can crawl back into bed for a second snooze before you need to get up for real. But you’ll be surprised how often you stay up longer than you planned once you get rolling on a good piece of writing.

2. Leave the House

If you don’t have any experiences worth writing about, your work will likely get as dull as your life.

If you find yourself struggling with a new story, a change of surroundings can do wonders. You don’t always need Scrivener or Word to get work done either. Throw a pen and a notebook in your bag along with your latest summer read. Lying on the beach or out by the pool can be a great space to hash out new material. When you finish a new draft of your short story, print it off and get away from your screen with a red pen in hand. If you’re a total tech-head who can’t fathom using a ballpoint and loose leaf to write anything, take your laptop outdoors with you. I wrote the first draft of my novel manuscript sitting in the passenger seat of a car on a three-month road trip where we camped across the United States. Picnic tables, tents, roadside diners—wherever I was, so was my manuscript. Don’t chain yourself to your desk in a stuffy apartment and expect results. Get outside!

3. Find Some Friends

Sitting around a table at a fellow writer’s house enjoying a cold drink while people read passages from their work is much more enjoyable than hiding in your muggy bedroom and cursing the world. Workshops and writing groups are a great way to help each other stay motivated in the hot season. We’re all in the same boat in the summer when it comes to staying motivated, so remember that misery loves company. Don’t know any writers in your area? Get online. I’m currently involved in a workshop with Richard Thomas where our group meets once a week for a video chat to discuss writing.

4. Stay Classy

Sign up for a writing class or program that will keep you motivated. LitReactor provides a ton of online classes. Many universities and community colleges offer summer school programs for creative writing, some even by correspondence. Novels, flash fiction, short stories—there are classes for every length of project. There’s nothing like deadlines and weekly assignments to force your sweaty writing hand into action.

5. Stop Being So Hard on Yourself

Fiction writing is about conveying imagined experiences to other people through your prose. If you don’t have any experiences worth writing about, your work will likely get as dull as your life. Use the summer to get out and explore the world around you. Watch people in the park. Take notes on their mannerisms and outfits, or write thirty-second stories about who they might be. Read on the beach. Take notes on passages that stand out for you, or phrases that pique your interest. Listen to conversations around you as you roam. Takes notes on the different ways people talk and use it to improve your dialogue. Don’t think of it as slacking off on your writing. Consider it field research. Don’t believe me? Check out Hemingway’s bio online. You’ll find he didn’t spend a lot of time indoors at his laptop.

About the author

Repo Kempt has worked as a criminal lawyer in the Canadian Arctic for over ten years. He is the author of a book about seal hunting, a member of the Horror Writers Association, and a guest columnist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He lives on a cricket farm with his wife, Joy and his little dog, Galactus. In his spare time, he looks for an agent for his latest manuscript.

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