Writers With Responsibilities: Damn the Dog Days!

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4th of julyDear Sally:

In June, when I was running around from school picnics, to award ceremonies, graduations, lacrosse jamborees, school plays and concerts, I longed for the dog days of summer and no morning routine. But now summer is here and I can’t wait for school to start. Help.

Your friend,

If only the grass were greener.

Dear Green Grass:

Summer’s here and the living is easy.  Unless of course, you’re in possession of a toddler, tween or worse yet a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. I’m sorry to say those of you with toddlers will just have to wait it out, but you do have the benefit of naps and early bedtimes.  Use these to your advantage and buy blackout shades if you have to. There is no guilt in fooling babies.

The bottom line is summer seems to be harder than any other time of the year to write. There seems to be any number of excuses not to write.  Not to mention large blocks of unstructured time filled with little people that want your attention, or a ride, or your car, and always your money.  As a caretaker, one of the hardest lessons for me to learn was to take care of myself first. Any therapist or flight attendant worth their salt will tell you, “If the plane is going down, use your oxygen mask first and then place it on your children.” Well, I think there can be self-care when it comes to writing too.  Now is not the time to beat yourself up for a lack of page accumulation.

Use this time to read and submit! 

It is often easy to forget that this is part of the work of a writer too. You must fill the tank and send your work out into the world. Think of your poetry and prose as additional dependents that seek to conquer the world on their own (No SAT prep required!) Sometimes it might cost you three bucks, or maybe fifteen for a contest. Any way you look at it, it is cheaper than taking your kids to the movies.

I’m not saying you should throw your notebook out the window until Labor Day. Carry it with you, if for no other reason than to remind yourself that you are a writer.

Don’t let it mock you, though, telling you you’re a joke just because you’re outnumbered and the days are longer and you still don’t have air conditioning. That makes even the strongest of us cranky. Tell your notebook to chill–you’ll be back.

So let me say it again. Read. Submit. Eat S’mores.summer photo

Dear Sally,

Well, you are full of good advice, but I need ideas. The sun and my kids have drained me of any inkling of creativity. Can you help me get my mojo back?

From,

Sun Parched and Dried Up.

Dear Dried Up:Idea_Bulb_animated (1)

If you can’t rest on your graham crackers and marshmallows, there is still hope. The Internet can provide you with any number of daily prompts. For me, I like something a little more visual. One of my favorite sources of inspiration is Found Magazine. As the name suggests, the magazine collects found stuff–love letters, shopping lists, doodles on napkins, snap shots–anything that gives a small window into someone’s life. It is a great jumping off point for any story.

Likewise, Post Secret is an ongoing community project where people anonymously mail in their secrets on one side of a post card. The best writing always comes from those places where our pysches don’t want us to go. That work can be hard, but starting with other people’s secrets is good practice and can give you the courage to make your narrators face up to those things they are hiding.

I also like to collect old yearbooks, which are wonderful places to find names and stories. Flea markets, tag sales and antique fairs are home to many such finds. Look for things that interest you–old post cards, photos, maps. Inspiration is everywhere.

The joy of being a writer is that you see the world differently. When you are at your wit’s end with your own children, pretend they aren’t yours and think of all the amusing details they are providing for your next story.