Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Living is Easy

A few days ago I was at the home of an artist friend and she commented that it is difficult to paint in the summer. "It's too nice to go up to my studio. I want to be doing this." She gestured with her hands to the sunshine outdoors, a movement that took in all the wonderful distractions a July morning in Maine might hold -- her garden, the farmer's market, the harbor, the bustling little town where she lives. In other words, everything but the canvas and paint awaiting her upstairs.

I know what she means. In the words of the old Gershwin song, "Summertime and the living is easy... " -- that is, unless you are trying to get some words on a page. Like many of you who live in a four-season climate, I've waited all year for this glorious 8-week span of time we call summer. And yes, it is difficult to pull myself away from my bicycle, or vegetable garden, or the hiking trails, and get my butt in the chair.

But Darby Farr's next mystery isn't going to write itself. If I want to work on Fatal Sale (we'll see if that stays the title), fulfill my obligations as a Realtor, and still have time for the fun stuff, I have to think strategically. Since I'm the spontaneous sort, rather than rigidly disciplined, I've come up with a few tricks to keep myself somewhat productive this summer. Here's my list:
  • Aim for a weekly target. I remember my kids' pediatrician saying what they ate in a day wasn't as important as looking at net nutrition over the week. By applying this same thinking to my writing, I can allow for the days when I'm running around with real estate clients (or sailing in Penobscot Bay) and make them up somewhere else in the week.
  • Jot down just a few lines. I say this to myself when I'm tempted to head out the door instead of writing. Ususally, a few lines turns into a page and I've hooked myself into getting something done.
  • Use praise as motivation. When someone stops me on the street to say they loved A House to Die For, I'm eager to write. Remembering positive feedback can help me get back on track when the beach beckons.
  • Take it outside. I sit on the deck, or the front porch, or take my laptop with me "up to camp" (how Mainers describe going to their lakefront cottages) and perch on the dock. I find I can get quite a bit of work done if I allow myself to also enjoy my surroundings.
  • Reward for good behavior. I'm not above bribing myself with a hike or a swim IF I accomplish a little writing first.

Summer is an all too short season, especially here in Northern New England, and I want to enjoy it. Every now and then I just need to remind myself that putting words on the page will make my summer even better. What tricks do you use to keep the words flowing?

7 comments:

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

It's even difficult keeping your butt in the chair living where the weather is nice almost all year round! In fact, I think that's the single greatest challenge to a writer. But you've listed some tried and true tactics, most of which I use. My fav is telling myself "just a couple of lines." You're right, that usually turns into much more. Sometimes we just need to trick ourselves into getting started. I also tell myself "just write until ___" and give it a time limit. Again, I find I generally go over that time limit. Aren't we silly wabbits?

Darrell James said...

Vicki- I write at the same time and same place every day. And I'm my own best drill sergeant. I simply don't give myself any other options. Sounds brutal, I know. But if I allow myself the choice of work or play, well... I know "me".

Diana said...

We all have these challenges, no matter what our careers. You offered some great advice!!

Alice Loweecey said...

I trick my brain. Instead of bringing out my 3--ring binder, I stash a 6 x 4 notepad in my purse, or on the deck, and write down a line or two, or a plot point. Most of my brain thinks it's goofing off on a glorious summer day. The writer part of it is cackling with glee.

Vicki Doudera said...

Darrell, it is clear that you are a person of habit and I commend you. Alas, that's not my personality, nor does it seem to be Sue Ann's, Diana's, or Alice's. Add to that my unpredicable schedule selling houses and I need all the tricks this kid can get.

Gershwin or Cole Porter for that song? I know it's a quick google away but hey, it's summer...

Vicki Doudera said...

Unpredicable?
That sums up my typing without contacts...

G.M. Malliet said...

I'll write outside any chance I get - the change of scene makes me feel I'm on vacation. Right now, in 100-degree temps, not possible.