Summertime Writing Toolbox: Surviving Schedule Upheaval, Vacations, Kids, and Other Fair-Weather Distractions

Isn’t summer wonderful? It’s a time for travel, kids home from school, vacations, barbecues, family visits, pool parties…and a host of other fun distractions. Fun as these things are, though, they can make it extraordinarily difficult to get any writing done.

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I’m all for enjoying time with friends and family, but I also know my limits: if I don’t spend some time writing each week (preferably each day!) I won’t be a happy camper. Besides that, my family counts on me* earning something to help pay the bills, so shutting down my writing life for the next three months really isn’t an option. But how the heck do you find time to focus on creative work when your schedule, space, and life are turned upside down?

Here are some strategies that are helping me stay creative amidst the craziness:

  1. Know your limits. What is the absolute minimum amount of writing time you need each week—for sanity, finances, or to keep your publisher happy?
  2. Set a schedule. I’ve found it’s helpful to create a very loose schedule within which to work every day. In the morning, I exercise, work on fiction projects, and blog; in the early afternoon, I work on nonfiction, bid on jobs, and earn money. Since I never know what interruptions I’ll face in a day, it helps me to set goals based on time slots rather than page counts or to-do lists.
  3. Be flexible. This might sound like the opposite of schedule-setting, but it’s not. If you face a host of uncertainties in your day, a flexible schedule is key to getting anything done. Last week, I eliminated my fiction-writing time block to attend my 8th-grader’s graduation ceremony (yikes! I now have two high schoolers!). This week, I will probably need to skip an afternoon or two for other appointments and errands. My goal is to keep a relative balance between the different parts of my writing life without falling below my “minimum requirement”.
  4. Identify obstacles and solutions. Now that I have older kids in the house, I’m less likely to be interrupted every five minutes during the day. That’s not the case for those of us with younger children! What obstacle will you face when you sit down to write? Interruptions from children? Errands? Noise? Experiment with writing at different times, in different places, to find a way to minimize distractions.
  5. Ask for help. Who will support your desire to write? Maybe a spouse can handle morning household tasks so you can snag an early hour at the computer, or maybe an older sibling will entertain the younger while you have a twenty-minute brainstorming session. I’ve had great success engaging my kids in the process, too. If you write for young people, there’s a good chance YOUR young people will be interested in your stories and research!
  6. Embrace the chaos. You won’t always get as much writing time as you might wish—but in exchange, you get extra time with friends and family. Make sure you enjoy this summer, chaos and all!

* Son’s response when I told him I was going to quit writing to crochet full time: “You can’t do that! I like your writing. And I like electricity, too. And food.”

What writing obstacles do you face this summer? How will you overcome them?

The hidden price of "productivity" every writer needs to know - www.cherylreif.com

You’ve probably read the same tips I have: Have a smart phone? Check Facebook while standing in line at the post office! Respond to Twitter messages while waiting for your dentist! Catch up on your news feed while sitting on the pot! For years, I thought the path to increased productivity was to squeeze in MORE–more […]

Comments

  1. says

    I don’t have a lot of those problems now the children are older, but I remember them well! I agree forgetting about the mess and spending time with family and friends is to be valued and treasured. These days don’t return!

    I think you just have to be flexible, get up earlier, or go to bed later, it comes down to the same in the end, if you want to write – you’ll find a way.
    Some great tips, have a great summer.

  2. says

    Excellent advice. Summer is tough. And we have college visits this summer, so I won’t even be home half the time. What kind of jobs do you bid on? I haven’t heard of that…

  3. Claire says

    I agree forgetting about the mess and spending time with family and friends is to be valued and the treasured. Thanks that you’ve shared.

  4. says

    Great advice, and definitely now is the time to start thinking about this. My kids have only a few weeks left and then it will be chaos, lol.

    Angela

  5. Nellie says

    Thanks for the strategies provided here and I am sure this can be a big help too.. Anyway, thank you for the great post!

  6. says

    Summer is definitely a tough time for me to get quality time alone with my laptop. One thing I discovered last summer that seems to help is if I give my son attention *first* and only then try to squeeze in some writing time. If I go straight for the “me time,” he’ll hound me all day.

    I do very much value the family time, but the other parts of my life don’t stop just because school is out. It’s a tricky balance. I pretty much give up on work during July and just enjoy the time together, because there’s only one chance to have this time with my son at this age. There’s really nothing more important than that.

  7. says

    Actually, these are good tips for any time of year. I no longer have small children at home, but I do find summer distracting–so many opportunities to sit outside with a glass of wine!