The end of summer is here, and the change in seasons can be either a blessing or bane to writers.
For some of you, summer was relaxing—there were vacations, weekends at the cabin, and maybe even months off if you’re a students or teacher. Without the pressures of everyday life, you had hours to sip lemonade and make a dent in your current manuscript. For others, writing was a laughably unattainable goal—the kids were home and demanding entertainment, there were family gatherings galore, and this was the year the yard needed some serious attention. For you, the return to a fall schedule is something to embrace with open arms.
Whether you’re dreading or eagerly anticipating the return of regularity to your schedule, there are five simple steps you can take to move smoothly away from August and into September. Remember, habits take time to form, and finding time for your writing is no different. Find what works, and then stick with it. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, writing regularly this fall will help you continue to write regularly throughout the rest of the year.
1: Give yourself time.
The arrival of fall might make you busier—or it might make you less so. Either way, you’re facing a change. Give yourself a little time to find out what your schedule is really going to be like after that change. When you know how your weeks will be paced and when you’ll feel perky instead of drained, you’ll have a better sense of when to schedule your writing time. You don’t need to know ahead of time what life is going to be like—wait and see!
2: Be flexible.
If you weren’t keeping to a fixed writing schedule over the summer, it might be tricky to plan one for the fall. Let yourself have a little wiggle-room to adjust if your planned writing time isn’t working out for you. If you planned to write in the morning but realize you think more clearly just before bed, go ahead and switch! You can use your mornings to read or catch up on some well-deserved rest. If you thought you’d write Tuesdays and Thursdays but have more time on Mondays and Wednesdays, don’t try to stick with the days that don’t work! Know yourself and your writing needs, and adjust as needed.
3: Make it fun.
You might be past the days of your own new backpack and lunchbox, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the back-to-school spirit! If you like to write with pen and paper, treat yourself to a fresh, new journal—or break into one of the dozens you already have stored in your closet (yeah, I’m talking to myself here). If you prefer to use the computer, buy yourself a new, colorful flash drive or instrumental music album. Grab a mug and a new flavor of coffee or tea. Don’t mourn the end of summer; celebrate the arrival of fall and make your writing time fun!
4: Once you get it, stick with it.
Once you find a time that works, stick with it, even when it’s hard. The more you force yourself to write this fall, the easier it will be to continue the habit through the cold winter months. If it’s difficult at first, don’t look at your work too seriously—do some journaling or follow some writing prompts if you’re not feeling up to adding on to your work in progress. Whatever you do, write! If you miss a day, don’t give up; continue the next day. It might be uncomfortable at first, but you’ll be glad you pushed through.
5: Keep it short and sweet.
If you’re a writer who writes in spurts, it’s tempting to want to schedule long chunks of writing time or high word count goals. Don’t overcommit! If you know you can put an hour or two into your book on a given day, go for it, but don’t expect yourself to do so every day. Keep your writing goals short and sweet. That way, if you write more, you’ll feel good about yourself, but if you write just a little, you’ll still know you’re making progress. Earlier this year, I read a book on how to write a novel in ten-minute increments. The author planned and wrote her own novel in between laundry loads and homeschool lessons, and it worked. She knew the value of biting off only what you can chew. It’s better to plan small and carry it out than plan big and never get there!
Let’s do it together!
I’m one of those writers who had a crazy summer and let my writing slip. While I like to keep a flexible schedule, I appreciate the return to normalcy that September promises me. This month, it’s time for me to take my own advice—I’ll be pulling out my shiny new journal, making another stop at Teavana, and settling in to find my writing groove between editing and grading days.
As the seasons change, join me in embracing fall with your own updated writing schedule. Why wait for New Year’s Eve to make a writing resolution? When January comes, you can remember the season of crisp leaves and fresh apples and smile at how far you’ve already come.