26 Days of Summer for Writers

13 Jun

Shoshone Falls

Idaho Statesman columnist Roger Phillips recently wrote a column on the 26 Days of Summer.  The basic idea is that if you have a regular nine-to-five job, you only have 13 weekends, or 26 days, to do all your hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, fishing, and swimming for the year. His article was for outdoor enthusiasts, but it brought me face to face with a writing dilemma I face this time every year.

I live for summer.

I’m a transplant to the state, and I’ve never quite accepted the notion of intentionally going outside when it’s less than 50˚F. Most of the year, this works to the advantage of my writing career.  Skip skiing to write? Sure, no problem, I’d probably break my leg anyway.

But skip canoeing to write? Give up a match of tennis? Miss out on biking the river? That’s a different story.  All summer long, I have an imaginary clock ticking in my head. If we don’t do it now, when will we do it? And my kids are teenagers. We don’t have that many summers left before they head off to college and Idaho is just a quaint piece of their backstory.

This weekend, we decided to drop everything and visit Shoshone Falls. We knew the water was high, the falls were their most impressive, and it was something we had wanted to do for eight years.  But it meant missing a writers’ meeting I should have attended, and my sense of adventure was tinged with guilt.

On the way to Twin Falls, we talked about all the places in Idaho we have always wanted to visit, but never had the time. I checked my calendar.  Of my 13 summer weekends, two were filled up with the RWA National conference, one with a writer’s retreat, four with religious events, and three with kids’ soccer games. 22 days of summer already gone. That leaves us with just two summer weekends free.

If I want to get all those summer activities in, I’m going to have to give up some writing time.

Writing is a job.  Weekdays, I work at it from nine to five. But you can’t write about life if you haven’t experienced it. Occasionally, we have to step away from the computer.

As writers, we have one advantage. We can work whenever we choose, wherever we choose. Luckily, the days are longer, and we can always squeeze more writing into the pre-dawn hours.  But I’ve already accepted that my summer word counts are likely to be disappointing.

How do you balance summer vacation and writing? I would love to hear your solutions.


Posted by on June 13, 2011 in Idaho, writers, writing


Tags: , , ,

34 responses to “26 Days of Summer for Writers

  1. johannaharness

    June 13, 2011 at 6:09 AM

    Gorgeous photo! I love this post so much, Clarissa. I think you’ve captured why I write best when it’s dark outside. If I don’t write in the wee hours of the morning, I likely won’t write at all. The waterfalls always win.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 14, 2011 at 8:08 AM

      “The waterfalls always win.” I think I will make that my motto for summer. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  2. lizfredericks

    June 13, 2011 at 6:36 AM

    I love Shoshone Falls, Clarissa! It’s one of my favorite places and you’ll keep that memory for a delicious scene in a future book. I’m with Johanna on the early morning before work and family need my attention. Usually I can snag time during football season – three plus hours where their attention is elsewhere and I creep upstairs. Summer’s a challenge. The yard needs attention and I can’t quite leave when my Giants are up to bat. Oh, the injuries this season ;-(

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 14, 2011 at 8:13 AM

      You know me well. As we were hiking around the park, I was plotting a YA survival novel set on the site. Great fun, but I’ll never get around if I keep going at my “summer pace.” Thanks for the comment.

  3. Carley Ash

    June 13, 2011 at 7:05 AM

    We visited Shoshone Falls last year, when the water was running low, and then again this year when it was high. It was fun to contrast the difference. Either way, it’s a beautiful place. The rest of the summer we’re doing a back yard renovation, so I’m struggling to get in my writing AND my recreation time.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 14, 2011 at 8:14 AM

      Ah, the backyard renovation. So exciting. So time-consuming. Good luck with it. I’m sure it will be beautiful when you’re done.

  4. Janis McCurry

    June 13, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    My son was married with Shoshone Falls in the background. Very pretty. As for vacations, I usually choose my vacation time to attend writing events. That’s how I roll. I sit on my deck and look at my flowers on weekends, mostly. Outside definitely takes a backseat for me. Solution is try to dial back the guilt and just do your thing.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 14, 2011 at 8:16 AM

      What a great place for a wedding. You must show pictures sometime. Dialing back guilt? A novel concept . Thanks for commenting and not being too mad at me for missing the meeting.

  5. Tiffinie Helmer

    June 13, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    I’m a night owl. My serious writing time doesn’t begin until 9pm. Now, since the sun is up later, it’s more like 10pm. My husband goes to sleep, kids are quieter if not in bed. I have teenagers too. I have found that I struggled during the day to get new words down. It will take me 8 hours to get what I can in 3 at night. It’s a magical time for me. Editing, now, that i can do during the day. Pretty much, during the whole year, that’s how I roll. Also, I suggest investing in an Alphasmart. It’s amazing what I can get done on that thing riding shotgun in the car.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 14, 2011 at 11:57 AM

      Hi Tiffinie! I know you have really exciting summers fishing in Alaska. I’m so impressed that you took the time to visit us and comment. Thank you 🙂

  6. Donna Cummings

    June 13, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    Great post, Clarissa, and the pic reminds me how much I miss the spectacular scenery of the Western U.S. Your post is also a good reminder of how many times we do one thing, but wish we could be doing something else. It can be so hard to balance it all, but thankfully there are more daylight hours in the summer, which tricks me into thinking I have more time overall!

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 14, 2011 at 11:58 AM

      Hi Donna, I think I’m going to have to join your coffee club if I want to work through all those daylight hours. Put a pot on for me, will you? Thanks for the comment.

  7. Marilyn

    June 13, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    Beautiful photo–would love to see them. You have to do some smelling of the roses to be refreshed enough that your writing isn’t stagnant. Enjoy guilt-free!

    Take care,

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 14, 2011 at 12:00 PM

      Thank you, Marilyn. “Refreshed, not stagnant.” I will remember that the next time I feel guilty. Thanks.

  8. Judith Keim

    June 13, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    I live in Florida where it’s summerlike for most of the year, not all of it.I, too, take my writing seriously and consider it a full-time job. But, like you, I think it’s important to step away from it and get out and see friends, go to a movie, enjoy a nice dinner with my hubby, etc. I need to work better on doing that…but when I do, I don’t feel guilty at all! LOL The falls are beautiful, by the way. Glad you had a nice day!

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 16, 2011 at 7:31 AM

      Hi Judith! I spent many summers in Florida and love it there. I would love to sit at the beach and write. No guilt there!

  9. Megan Hutchins

    June 13, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    Shoshone’s amazing! I always tell myself that these kinds of things are writing, too. If I just stare at my computer all day, I’m going to write novels about white, empty rooms.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 16, 2011 at 7:33 AM

      Great idea, Megan. I’ll just label it research for some future, unidentified novel. Hard to justifyShoshone for my current WIP which is set in North Africa. Lol. Thanks for the comment.

  10. Nan Dixon

    June 13, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    Clarissa – you are so right! My gardens are calling me — or is it the weeds? Since I now write full-time, I write til about 1 – eat lunch and then get some work on house/garden things handled after lunch. About 3, I come back and write – or revise. But when I get to our lake place on weekends – it’s so hard to get any writing done.

    Discipline — sigh. I need more. My To Do lists help. I know what I have to get done for the week.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 16, 2011 at 7:35 AM

      That’s a wonderful way to do it, Nan, planning a big break in the middle of the day. I will have to try it. I’m sure you come back refreshed and get a lot more done that way. Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  11. anita clenney

    June 13, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Beautiful picture Clarissa. I think it is harder to write in summer. I have kids out of school and so many interuptions. I tend to write a lot in the evenings or just squeeze it in where I can. I’m going to have to do a lot of squeezing because I have a deadline looming.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 16, 2011 at 7:37 AM

      It is hard in summer, because there are so many interruptions. But I know the last week of school, I kept saying, “If I can just make it to summer, then I can write.” Uh, no. It never ends. Good luck on the deadline, Anita.

  12. Mary Vine

    June 13, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    I wish I could have been with you-I’ve wanted to see Shoshone Falls! Anyway, the way I get at least something done is take my AlphaSmart with me and write one hundred words per day. Sometimes, it’s the last part of the day before I go to sleep.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 16, 2011 at 7:38 AM

      So many people have told me about the Alpha Smart. It must be a great product for writers. I’ll have to look into it. Thanks, Mary 🙂

  13. Debby Lee

    June 13, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Hi Clarissa, very nice article which deals with some chalenges that we as writers face. Finding the time to write amongst the business of life. We an’t be everywhere all at once. Sometimes, somethings just have to give. But one thing that helps me, is visting places that give me inspiration to write. History museums and Old Western towns are great palces to do research and my kids love visiting places like this.
    Thanks again for sharing Clarissa. By the way, I “love” the picture you posted. That alone has to be worth hundreds of words of inspiration.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 16, 2011 at 7:39 AM

      Thanks so much for the encouraging words, Debby!

  14. Peggy Staggs

    June 13, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    Lucky you! We spent the weekend cleaning up the yard. I would much rather have been looking at those magnificent falls. How do I balance my writing? Like a juggler with his hands tied together…badly.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 16, 2011 at 7:39 AM

      Peggy, I’m sure if they tied your hands, you’d learn to write with your feet. You’re just that devoted 🙂

  15. lynn mapp

    June 13, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Shoshone Falls, a natural wonder, and higher than the more famous Nigra Fall. I like to write in the morning, but squeezing that time in is difficult.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 16, 2011 at 7:40 AM

      I thought it was higher than Niagra, but I wasn’t sure so I didn’t put it in my post. Thanks for confirming it, Lynn.

  16. Dawn Marie Hamilton

    June 14, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    Hi, Clarissa. I struggle with writing during the summer months. I write 9-5 most weekdays, but in the summer, that time gets squeezed. The garden calls. Long weekends call. Camping, biking and hiking call. So…I give myself permission to enjoy the summer and squeeze the writing in–early in the morning, between outings, late at night. Increase the writing goal on Tuesday-Thursday for a long weekend.

    BTW: The picture of the falls is awesome.

    Have a great summer!

    • Clarissa Southwick

      June 16, 2011 at 7:42 AM

      Hi Dawn, That sounds like a great schedule. I really need to get with the early morning wake up. Everyone says that’s the way to go. Thanks for the comment.

  17. P. L. Parker

    June 15, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    Shoshone Falls is so great – especially this year when the water is so high. There are years when it isn’t quite so breathtaking. As to writing, I work full time, and with a household to care for, my writing time always has been and for quite some time in the future will be during my breaks at work. I don’t make huge strides but I keep plugging away. It works for me!

  18. Clarissa Southwick

    June 16, 2011 at 7:42 AM

    P.L. , Your writing production is amazing considering you have a full time job. What an inspiration. Thanks for commenting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: