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Staying Motivated in the Summertime
by Cheryl Sloan Wray

Summer means different things to different people: family vacations, lazy days by the pool, outdoor barbecues with family and friends, children home from school. For many freelance writers, summer can also mean a slowdown in productivity. The culprits may be children under foot, a casual summer attitude, or a busy schedule filled with vacations and extra activities; whatever the culprit, though, it's a summer fact that the season is the hardest for staying motivated and productive as a writer.

There are ways, however, to battle this summer problem. By getting organized, finding support, and being creative, you can make summer one of your most productive writing seasons of the year.

As the weather gets hotter and you find it harder to find the motivation to write, consider some of these ways to make it easier:

* Set up a Summer Writing Schedule. You may have to readjust your writing schedule in the summer, due to children at home or vacations away from the office. Just because you have other things demanding your attention, however, doesn’t mean you can stop writing. Novelist Denise Turney says she gets up before her son does each morning and also writes at night. "I condition myself to write a certain amount of time each day, regardless of what’s going on around me," she says.

* Write on the Go. You say it’s harder to write during the summer, because special activities demand more of your time? An easy solution is to take your writing with you. If you’re going on a long car trip, take a notebook with you and work on projects. If you’re kids are dying to spend a day at the pool, work while they’re playing. Freelance writer Hannah Hayes says that her young son "was pleased last summer that I traveled to his ball games and the park with his friends with my laptop. He's at an age now when he's proud of my byline." Hayes also recommends taking a cell phone with you when you write on the go; it makes it easy to check messages and schedule interviews.

* Set Summertime Writing Goals. Setting goals is one of the best ways to stay motivated and be productive as a writer. With summer here, adjust your goals to fit your summertime schedule. But, even if your goals are smaller, make sure you stick to them.

* Ask for Help. Writing may be a basically solitary job, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use some help to make it easier to accomplish. If you find it hard to write with kids at home, ask for help for at least part of a day or week. "I volunteer to watch other kids one to two days a week and I get a LOT more writing time in," says Shirley Kawa Jump, a romance novelist and magazine writer. "The other kids (who are my two kids' best friends) keep my kids busy longer and keep them from fighting. I put out some Play-Doh or fill the pool or make some cookies and I buy at least an hour."

* Consider your Local Newspaper. Summer is often a difficult time for many publications, simply because many of their staff writers take vacation time. Perhaps you could help them out by providing needed copy? Freelance writer Kathleen McKernan says that summertime has expanded her writing repertoire and given her valuable clips. "Summer is a great time to freelance, especially for publications with staff writers. Their staff writers take vacations, but they still have space to fill," McKernan says. "I've gotten my share of front-page newspaper stories during the summer."

* Write on Summer Topics. In looking at past summers, I see that I have written articles on such topics as: summer learning activities for kids, traveling to Disney World, local summer festivals, safety in the summertime sun, and favorite beaches. Consider everything you do and everywhere you go in the summer as a source for writing ideas.

Write on Non Summer Topics. Because so many publications work ahead of time (six months ahead, oftentimes), summer is the perfect time to write on out of season topics. So, while the temperature is climbing outside, consider ideas you can write about Christmas or cold weather. Freelance writer Kathryn Lay says that Fall is often her best paying time of the year, because she is being paid for all of the thing she wrote during the summer. "I actually have much more time to write in the summer because I get a break from homeschooling my children, and I tend to get lots sent out," she says. "It is a great time for Christmas stories and such."

Attend a Summer Writing Workshop. Summer is a great time to meet and network with other writers at workshops and conferences. As an organizer of and speaker at the Southern Christian Writers Conference held every summer in June, I get the chance to encourage other writers; they go home refreshed and motivated for the rest of the summer.

This summer, challenge yourself to make the season one of your most productive writing seasons ever. Promise yourself that, come September or October, you’ll be able to look back at this past summer and have fond memories... not just of that great family vacation or that day spent at the park, but of the completed writing projects and productive writing days you were able to enjoy.

© Copyright 2002, Cheryl Sloan Wray

Cheryl Sloan Wray is a freelancer writer with more than 1000 articles to her credit. She is also the author of Writing for Magazines (McGraw-Hill), a popular guide for freelancers.

Other articles by Cheryl Sloan Wray :

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