July 01, 2015

What Are Your Summer Writing Challenges? by Sandi Somers

Ernest Hemingway said that when the weather got too hot in the summer, it was better to go fishing than to perspire at his desk trying to write.

Prompt: What is summer writing like for you? Do you ease off because of the heat and many other activities? Or do you have time off from your job in which to devote to your art? Or perhaps your summer writing is no different from any other season. How does God direct your writing during this time?

A New Strategy

In the past, my writing drops off in the summer months because I’m more active, with gardening, longer hikes/walks, travelling around Alberta more (if I’m not on a longer travel journey) and attending more family events. I’ve tended to spend more time journaling, while letting work on my specific projects be somewhat haphazard or irregular at best.

However, last month’s blog theme focused my thoughts in a new direction: “How could my writing please God this summer?”

As I prayed, God gave me a systematic strategy for these active months.

By providence, I came across a blog post by Lisa Dale Norton, a memoir writing instructor, who advised that during the summer, writers would do well by writing smaller pieces at a time: “write just scenes, and don’t worry about how they fit together yet.” She advocated listing scenes that are essential to your story, record on your calendar a realistic writing schedule, then show up at your computer or desk and write a scene.

“Each time you sit down, you look at the next scene on your list of moments that make up your story. You watch the moment play out in your mind as you remember it again. You transcribe what you see, feel, and hear onto the page--no matter how skeletal the shape...”

Her idea resonated with me. I could do this over the next weeks. I would, however, not schedule myself too hard and fast, as events come up that pre-empt writing.


I listed scenes or short vignettes in my ongoing project—about thirty pieces—each of which I could write in an hour. Some I have to write from the beginning, others need revising or expanding. As I complete the draft of one vignette, I know which one I need to work on next.

Already I’ve received benefits of God’s strategy for more systematic writing through summer; it’s giving me a sense of stability, order and focus. And this process is pleasing to God.

The Apostle John said it well, “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22 KJV).


16 comments:

  1. I like your suggestions. I always find schedules beneficial

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    1. Thanks, Tracy, Scheduling is like making a scaffold to help you build your project.

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  2. What an encouraging blog. I have a couple projects just started and writing short scenes is a great idea. Thanks.

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  3. Hi Carol, Yes, writing scenes is a good way to build your projects. You can easily write 250 word key scenes of 250 words, 500 or longer, depending on your time and how simple or complex your scene is.

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  4. "...a sense of stability, order and focus". This is what I need. Thank you for the suggestions.

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    2. Thank you, Joylene. I pray you will discover your own stability, order and focus. I came to this plan when I discovered there was a gap in my yearly goals--I hadn't strategized my writing plans to accommodate a more active summer. I'm finding this is a good system and keeps me directed towards my goals while still leaving room for more freewheeling journaling and writing about some of my summer excursions.

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  5. Ernest didn't have a laptop, did he? With mine, once I get it working properly, I can go to the cool of the basement or outdoors on fine days. I can visit the library as well if I so choose. No longer am I confined to my computer room.

    By the way, how much does a Hemingway anyway?

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    1. Thanks, Bruce. The beauty of summer is that you can go outdoors and write--I've written by the river, beside the outdoor pool, on a shady park bench. The other advantage of summer is that you can take a notebook and write freehand--which I often do. I've even run inside to dash off an inspiration that came while I was working in my flower beds.

      Not sure how much a Hemingways. He never said, that I know of. :)

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  6. I do find writing by 'scenes' an easier way to tackle projects. Systems work! As long as we are disciplined to them! I tend to get distracted and appreciate your motivating post.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Lynn. I, too, get distracted easily, and have been asking God to keep me focused.

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  7. Thanks, Sandi. What you describe here is what I used to do with my students. Instead of that overwhelming 'write a story about...' small vignettes are a perfect way for a book to emerge. Wise counsel for all of us, too! Good post

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  8. Thanks, Sandi. What you describe here is what I used to do with my students. Instead of that overwhelming 'write a story about...' small vignettes are a perfect way for a book to emerge. Wise counsel for all of us, too! Good post

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  9. Sandi--Excellent perspective on the summer months. I find myself writing more poetry than anything these days and that too is a lot like writing vignettes, snippets of life. Thanks for a great blog opening for the month, as usual.

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  10. I like your approach here and as someone said above, it is motivating. We are still unpacking boxes,
    so I can't really do long stretches right now, but little by little I can get something done over the summer. Doing so, I believe, would make me feel good about being able to write something right away. Thanks.

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  11. Sandi, you're so right. Summer is the best time to do a lot of things we can't do during the rest of the year, so it's just logical to make the most of the weather, and do smaller writing projects. Thanks for the wisdom!

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