Sweat and Ink: Finding Your Passion In The Armpit Of Summer


This is it: the dog days of summer. If you’re anywhere near me, you know that it’s been hotter than the devil’s jockstrap and twice as sweaty.*

What’s the first thing to go in this weather? No, not your clothes. If you’re like me, you’ve been working in a bikini top and daisy dukes since the last week of June, anyway.

The first thing to go is enthusiasm. The muggier it gets, the harder it becomes to give the contents of a roach-infested Hyundai’s ashtray about whatever the hell your characters are doing. Or about anything other than the nearest source of air conditioning, but let’s focus on the writing.

This related to this post on writing in the summer, but if that’s Summer Writer 101, consider this Summer Writer 201. You’ve shown up to write, but your brain is too hot to get it done. To get through the oncoming stickiness with your word/scene/note count intact, we need to dredge your passion for the project out of whatever damp hole it crawled in to die. Here it is: Finding Your Passion, Hot Weather Edition!

1) Change your venue. To an igloo. You might think this is too silly to work, but that’s just the sweat talking. Moving from your stifling living room, where the Crotch-Scorching Firebrick** slow-roasts your junk, to a cooler location can give you the mental energy to write. Your local library might have air conditioning. Or there’s coffee shops. Or malls. Find somewhere to cool down your brain. And your junk.

2 a) Write the good part. There’s probably a part of your story that you’ve been looking forward to writing every since you conceived the idea. Now is the time to write it. Because, god damn it, if you can’t get excited about that right now, it might be time to hang up the pens.

2 b) Read the good part. Maybe you’ve already written the good part. I have. I couldn’t wait. So now is a really good time to go find that part and read it. Remember why you couldn’t wait.

3) Make some inspiration. No, not meth. You don’t want to cook in this weather.

Go make a playlist of music that sounds like your characters, or your settings. Find or make some art: maps, character sketches, artefacts. Put it somewhere you can look at it. Feel the inspiration.

Then make meth.

4) Spread the love. Enlist another person in your project. Find a second reader and send them pages or chapters as they’re finished. They might just get excited, which will make you more excited. And then you can get together and fan-person it up.

5) Strip down. Not like that. Put your shorts back on, slick.

Strip your story down to the most exciting idea. What makes your imagination’s loins quiver with the thought of writing it? What are you trying to say? What does it all mean? Remembering why you got into this might help you get out of it with your sanity intact.

Anyone else? How do you stay motivated to stick with projects when you’re sticking to the chair?

*By Canadian standards, obviously. Those of you from places like Florida and India, keep your weather far south of me and get back to turning into walking sweat glands.

**Also known as your laptop


Bring Me Another Goddamn Daiquiri: Writing In The Summer

I think this is supposed to help you see a laptop screen in the sun. Or minimize distractions. Or let you see through time. One of those.

At least half the writers I know do no actual writing in the summer. Too hot, they say. Or too nice outside. Or too many pina coladas to slam down before Labour Day.

If that’s your jam, fine. But if there are any of you out there who–because of looming deadlines, because you’re developing the habit of consistency, because you’re just in the middle of a damn good story–want to write your heart out this summer, come with me. I can show you the way.

The first novel that I’m willing to call by the name* was written in the middle of a scorcher, with 40 degree days and no air conditioning. And I’ve written every summer since. So, with that track record behind me, here are my best tips for putting brain to page during the dog days.

1) Get Up Earlier. The sun’s up. You should be, too. I love getting up at 5:30 in the summer. It’s still cool but the sun’s out, the streets are quiet (a bonus if you run like I do in the morning), and it generally gets things off to a good start. The day unfolds before you, leaving you with so much time to get the words down. Plus your laptop has not yet become a crotch-scorching brick of fire.

2) Trail of Bread Crumbs. Make some notes for yourself the night before to remind you where you have to go the following day. Make at least one of them a really good thing: that scene you really want to write, the character you want to play with, the submission you really want to get away. Something to look forward to. Something that makes you excited, god damn it. If nothing excites you…maybe you need to think long and hard about your project.

3) Learn to make iced coffee. Cold brew, baby. Or pour espresso over ice.

4) Get Out From Under The Laptop. No one likes baked writer junk. No one. I use a standing desk pretty much year round, which keeps the Aluminum Fire Brick off my lap, an especially valuable option when the mercury rises.

Other options: start using a notebook for pre-work, getting on the computer only to do actual writing; stop dicking around online so much so you can finish faster; place the laptop on a block of ice.** Or, best yet, take your work outside. No reason to miss out on the beach because you want to write. Take a notebook and a pen with your sunscreen and you’re good to go.

Go forth and write, my sweltering word badgers. By the fall, you’ll have something interesting, even if it is covered in sweat stains.

*My second finished manuscript. The first is best not spoke of.

**I was going to write DO NOT ATTEMPT, but I think if you do this, you deserve exactly what happens to you.


Your Summer Writing Plan

Don’t let the closed eyes fool you. I’m hard at work. Thinking. Of…story stuff.  (Picture Credit: Krys)

Summer will not linger.

I know this is an astronomical fact, but it always seems to surprise me. When the sun’s shining and the breeze is up, even I don’t want to sit under this increasingly warm laptop. All I want to do is change into my bikini, take my iPod and a couple of beer, and lie on my back deck in the sun, listening to music on my giant headphones and staring up into that heartbreak-blue sky.

And then fall asleep and wake up with a sunburn. But still. I’d take that hit most days.

I know I’m not the only one. Everyone needs a few weeks with sun and beer and beaches, a few weeks of water gun fights and BBQs and summer night stars. Fuck knows I did.

But here we are at the end of July. One more month, and then this summer’s gone, baby. And, just like that dress you lent to a ‘friend’ you haven’t seen since, it’s never coming back.*

So it’s time to get back to work.

I’m pretty sure I just heard a vast collective groan. But fret not, fellow writers. I have a plan. And it begins with a thrown gauntlet.**

I bet you’ve got a project you’ve been neglecting. Maybe a short story that’s lacking an ending, maybe a novel that needs a good edit, maybe an outline that needs research and fleshing out before November comes and NaNoWriMo is upon us once again. Something. Every writer’s got one. That project whose time never comes. All it needs is a little love, but somehow it keeps getting pushed back in favour of new things and shinier ideas. It lingers at the bottom on your drawer or a dump file somewhere on your computer, languishing like a plant out of the sun.

This is its time. Dig that thing out, take it out to the back deck or the beach or the patio with you, and get to work. Think of it like that little summer bikini: packed away for a while, but now it’s back and ready for fun. It’s going to have a few beers, dance to something embarrassing on the radio, and then cannonball into the pool. It’ll come back up refreshed and so will you.

So this is my challenge to you: take that thing out and finish it. Finish it like that last mouthful in a cold beer bottle on a hot summer’s day. Come back to the cooler days refreshed and ready for new action.

And then you can always look back on this summer with a twinkle in your eye. Because this was the summer you finished that story, that novel, that outline, that submission. And it was great.

*Well, until next year. But this summer will be gone. And, like that dress, the memories of it will always smell like cheap wine, body glitter, and failure.
**A lot of my plans start with this. Inherently confrontational? Nah.