Summer: so full of expectations, but oh-so-fleeting. Do you think the Planner vs. Pantser debate can spill over into writers’ philosophies regarding summer time? If so, with which camp do you identify? Do you make a list of must-do activities, taking special care to see that each item gets its devoted time? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants, savoring each day as it comes, squeezing out the goodness like you would squeeze a wedge of lemon into iced tea? I’d argue (just like my stance in the original debate) that you don’t have to go all-in for one extreme or the other. Check out this summer bucket list for writers:**
Take a Literary Road Trip
Who’s your favorite author? Is it possible to visit the author’s hometown or the setting of your favorite novel? If you’re a sci-fi fan, obviously it’s a bit of a challenge to get to other planets, but the rest of us have no excuse! A few years ago, I was on a Mark Twain binge. Wouldn’t you know, we had the opportunity to stop over in Hannibal, MO, Twain’s real-life home town. It was incredible. EVERYthing in that town is kitchsy TwainMania, and I loved every second.
The next year, we decided to take a detour through New Mexico. I reread Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop. We stopped and toured Georgia O’Keefe’s studio and Ghost Ranch. Ya’ll? It was surreal (See what I did, there?).
To walk the very same paths of your creative influences is indescribable. It’s hushed and humbling, but also buzzing with creative energy. You simply must try it.
*If money is tight and you just can’t swing a trip right now, don’t be discouraged. You can create a literary atmosphere at home. Check out these ideas for bringing your favorite book to life.*
Research Your Project
What are you working on? This idea is closely related to the previous point, but try to walk in the steps of your topic. One author friend is nearly done with a biography. He’s traveled to nearly all the locations in his subject’s life, and will round out his research by stopping at a small desert town in Colorado next month.
Another poet friend spent some time at a fabulous, secluded writer’s retreat last month. She was able to slow down and fine tune her project.
Whatever you’re working on, see if you can immerse yourself more fully into the world you’re creating. Can you do any genealogical or historical research to improve the texture of your project? Consider visiting a museum, interviewing an expert, or exploring areas of interest. The details you’ll discover will add rich depth to your writing.
Spend an Entire Day Outside
Not to sound overly woo-woo, but did you know that the earth emits low frequency waves? There are all sorts of theories and hypotheses circulating about the benefits our ancestors may have enjoyed by sleeping on the ground, thanks to these frequencies. (Don’t google it unless you want to waste an hour and a half scrambling back out of that rabbit hole!) All that to say–you should spend more time outside. And if you spread out a blanket and lie down, even better.
Spending time in nature has been shown, over and over again, to have positive effects on creativity and writing. The book, The Wander Society, explains Walt Whitman’s wandering philosophy at great length. Scads of other authors preach the benefits of living outside. Try it for an entire day and and document your results. But for heaven’s sake, look at the forecast and pick a nice day 😉
See a Play
Theater can be a little intimidating if you don’t go very often. You might think you aren’t “cultured” enough to attend a play, but give yourself a chance to love it. There’s something special about seeing stories come to life. It can inspire you in surprising and unexpected ways to actually see the actors’ nuanced interpretations of an author’s imagination.
Check what’s available in your area. Or, even better, stack the items in this list: see an outdoor play, or take a literary road trip to find one you’ll love! Don’t forget a notebook and pen to record the ideas that inevitably emerge. You’ll be surrounded by energized, creative people, and of course your own creativity will be heightened, too. Plus, you won’t feel distracted by guilt from using your phone during a play…
Writing at a cafe–is there anything so luxurious? Unlimited drinks, a cozy level of white noise, good lighting, interesting strangers for character inspiration, and no excuses. I’d love to write at cafes more often but, sadly, this season of my life just won’t allow it…except in the summer time! This year, I’m going spend entire days hopping from one cafe to the next. I’ll start at my favorite breakfast spot, set up my mobile writing kit, and hit the keys. (Is that an expression? Hit the keys = attack the keyboard, type away, hammer out a few thousand words? Can we make it an expression?) Then I’ll move on to a great afternoon writing spot and hang out for a while. By this time, I’ll be feeling accomplished with my word count. Finally, I’ll relocate to another cafe haven–maybe one with outside tables?–and have a light supper followed by a few hundred words. It’s a foodie/introvert’s dream-come-true.
!! A word on etiquette !! Don’t forget to buy something every couple of hours, or relocate to free up your workspace. We want to be digital nomads, not nuisances. Tip generously. Also, tag your cafes on social media, giving them a (well-written) shout out for their writer-friendly environment. You know how hard it is to find a place that’s not too loud, quiet, hot, cold, or smelly (deep fryers really drive me away). Well, Goldilocks, let the other laptop warriors know when you’ve found someplace, “Juuuusst right…”
If you plan, do something unexpected. If you’re spontaneous, do something planned…
One of the amazing things about being a writer is the privilege of living many lives, imagining experiences, and recording special moments in time. Don’t forget to schedule these things in your own life, not only your characters’ lives. Even if you’re an extreme pantser (you wild thing, you!), resolve to put at least one planned experience on your summer bucket list. That way, it’s less likely the season will escape you.
NOW YOU: What items belong on *your* summer bucket list for writers?
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First off, I have to thank you, Cole, for some of the best writing/blogging counsel I’ve ever received. A few years back you told me that historically, blog readership falls off in the summer. Once you told me that, I began to relax during the summer. I reposted and upcycled oldie-but-still-goodie pieces instead of spending hours and hours researching, rough-drafting, and editing new content. As a matter of fact, I’m getting ready to go into relax mode soon.
On my bucket list is have a husband-wife pedicure at a salon. Not sure why this idea amuses me so but it does. Sorry it’s not more writerly. Though I’ll probably get a good Facebook status/photo out of the experience.
Wow, some of the best writing counsel! I’m putting that in my journal tonight 🙂 Summer can be such a restful time. (Fingers crossed, here!)
Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Every experience is a writerly experience when you write about it, ha!