Ah summer! Sunlight that lasts until long past bedtime, irresistible afternoons of lingering in the warm grass, cooling off with a swim in a local lake. Milkshakes, BBQs, Drive-ins, bike rides…
But where does the writing life fit into this equation? How do we live in the moment and still make time to write about it?
I would love to say I have the secret to this dilemma, but I am, alas, still working towards writerly perfection in this area.
What I do have to offer is three of the most important pieces of writing advice I have ever received. They are not revelatory, they are not even particularly seasonal, but they are, in my experience, always, always true.
- Write: “BIC-HOP (Butt in chair-Heart on Page)” (Jane Yolen)
I know, it’s easy to say you don’t have time, or your kids are out of school, or your partner is on vacation, or the sun is shining, or the sky is blue, so you can’t write. But there is a long list of writers who had way more valid excuses than you who found the time to write anyway. William Carlos Williams was a full time doctor during his whole writing career. Franz Kafka worked at an insurance company. Virginia Woolf founded and ran a Publishing Company. The difference between them and most aspiring writers? They wrote.
But the second half of that advice is just as important. Yolen advises writers to let whatever mix of emotions and experiences that are true for them appear in the writing. Maybe not as a literal account of those experiences, but the idea is to write something emotionally true. Especially in writing for children. Otherwise what’s the point, really?
- Shitty first drafts: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” (Anne Lamott)
This is literally the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I am a born perfectionist, completely stymied by my own impossible standards and fear of other people’s judgement. The only way I wrote my novel was by telling myself nobody would ever see the writing. In other words, I gave myself the gift of a shitty first draft. (And in my case a few more shitty drafts as well). You can always revise, but you can’t revise what you haven’t written.
- Finish something: “You have to finish things. That’s what you learn from; you learn by finishing things.” (Neil Gaiman)
This little tidbit is huge for me. I have lots of little ideas and starts and bits that I get very excited about and then just peter out after a few paragraphs. But committing to finishing something forces me to give it some form. Once I’ve given it a rough shape beginning to end, then I can wade into the tougher territory of the writing process: revision.
“But still: it’s summer!” you say. And I hear you loud and clear. Don’t worry, Neil Gaiman also has other advice for writers: “Go for walks. Read a lot & outside your comfort zone. Stay interested. Daydream.” So when you can’t bring yourself to follow the first three pieces of advice, follow that last one. That way you can have your summer and write about it too.
Kris Dinnison is a former teacher and librarian. She now chases her dream of being a writer. She lives in Spokane, Washington with her husband, daughter (when she’s not off gallivanting in Europe), two cats, and a labradoodle named Charlie. She likes to read and hike but rarely at the same time.
FIND KRIS DINNISON:
Make a list of at least ten of your favorite summer activities in any order. Circle numbers three, five, and 10. Now write a scene about a character who is terrified of doing one of those three activities.
Kirs will be giving away your choice of one:
to those of you who PRE-REGISTERED, COMMENT on this post, and COMPLETE the challenge.
Go to this RAFFLECOPTER LINK TO ENTER into the drawing to win under Kris’ post!
Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:
Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2: The Power of Doodling by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can! by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World? by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!