Tackling Your Summer Writing
It’s summer! A reprieve from the grueling pace of the school year…and also your chance to get on top of whatever projects have been languishing.
You need a break. Be sure to give yourself time to recharge and be away from work. Here are some ideas for making the most of your summer writing time when you dive back in.
Set realistic goals.
It’s discouraging to not meet the goals you set…so make sure your summer writing goals are achievable (& specific). Then break your writing project down into doable chunks. At the end of each workday, give yourself tasks for the next day—the more specific, the better.
Celebrate little wins.
Figured out a way to explain a thorny concept? Made a tedious reviewer-recommended change to an article? Find ways to celebrate the progress you’re making from day to day! (Even if it’s just going on a walk or giving yourself a piece of chocolate.)
At the end of the day, give yourself an unintimidating task that makes it easy to get back into your writing the next day.
Maybe you “park on the down slope” by stopping mid-paragraph, leaving a thought dangling that you can finish writing out the next day. Maybe you make a habit of starting your writing session with a few minutes of freewriting to get warmed up. Whatever it is, make your first step easy and low-pressure to decrease your resistance to the process.
Write in bursts of 90 minutes or less.
Give yourself breaks between each burst. It’s hard to do more than 4-5 hours of intensely focused work in a day. If you’re putting in full workdays, then do less cognitively demanding work the rest of the day. Use your highest energy periods of the day to do your writing and your slump periods to do less demanding work. (Many people have natural energy slumps in the early or mid-afternoon.)
Schedule your internet time.
And stay far away from the internet when you don’t need it. (This idea is from Cal Newport.) Turn your phone off or set it to airplane mode. For most of my workday, I use an internet blocker on my computer that I have set with a “whitelist” of a small handful of sites (primarily dictionary & thesaurus sites for my editing work) that I can access all the time.
Discharge your stress.
Dealing with your stress is a separate process from dealing with your stressors (a distinction I learned from Emily and Amelia Nagoski’s book Burnout). Get the stress out of your body with some physical movement. Exercise is great—but you can get creative on days when you’re not going to fit in any cardio. (My household just instituted a short nightly family dance party.) Creative expression, time with friends, and deep breathing can all also help move you out of the stress response. The Nagoskis say that giving a loved one a long hug or kiss can be good, too, since it makes you feel safe and connected and increases your levels of oxytocin.
And discharge some of your project-related stress through a “ventilation file.”
I got this idea from Joli Jensen, who got it from David Steinberg. Basically—discharge your project-related stress by having a designated place to write down your angsty thoughts about your project. Freewrite. Get it all out on paper (or a computer file) so it doesn’t fester.
Batch non-writing tasks.
For example, batch your emails—check & respond to emails just a few times a day. Confine your syllabus-writing, administrative responsibilities, etc. to particular times during the week.
Give yourself time everyday to disconnect & recharge.
Embrace “fixed-schedule productivity”—give yourself certain periods of time to do your work so that it doesn’t take over every minute of the day (and so that you’re forced to be more efficient with the time you have). Give yourself time to be away from your projects.
Make your writing social.
Do you have friends or groups that you can physically sit and write with? Online accountability partners? Writing groups where you give one another feedback? Writing is fundamentally a solitary activity, but sometimes it can help to find small ways to make the process less isolated.
Any other ideas or strategies that have worked well for you? Good luck to all of you with your summer writing projects!