Spring has me thinking of summer—ah, glorious summer—a time that can seem like a call for renewal and fresh starts for the writer. Here are some things we can all do to get the most from that period of rejuvenation.
1. Get out of our comfort zones. Do something we never thought we’d do. Skydiving? Why not? Or something less dramatic. A trip to somewhere we’ve always wanted to go, a gift we’ve always wanted to make, an instrument we’ve always wanted to play, a sport we’ve always wanted to try. Whatever our choice, we can do something to expand our realm of experience.
2. Read the books we’ve always wanted to read. We can read them the way a writer reads, with an eye toward the artistic choices the writer made to create the effects that he or she desired.
3. Write something that only we can write. Write something that risks something of ourselves. Technique is a matter of practice, but what about the heart of a piece? It comes from inside the writer and is unique to the individual. We can write something close to the bone, something that matters deeply to us, something that demands our surrender. We can give up all that we use to protect us. We can let it go. We can be vulnerable on the page.
4. Make a trip to our childhood homes (or any place of significance from any time of our lives). We can go back. We can pay attention. We can call back those people who mattered to us. We can listen. We can remember. We can find what puzzles us, what won’t let us go, what demands that we give it artistic shape so we can know what there is to say.
5. Make room for further study of our craft. Maybe we want to read the craft books we’ve always meant to read or revisit those that we have. Maybe we want to take our time, to really ponder what we find there, to practice various strategies. We can give ourselves permission to play, to demand no finished product but instead to practice the way a child practices scales when learning to play a musical instrument. We can try techniques just to see what they feel like. We can internalize them so they’ll be there when we need them in our work.
6. Write a fan letter to another writer. We can sincerely express our appreciation, not because we want something in return, but merely because we read something that touched us and we want to say thank you to the person who created it.
7. Daydream without guilt. Forget time. Let the hours go by. Let daydreams take us to material.
8. Laugh at rejection. Someone says no to a poem, a story, an essay, a novel? Laugh! Work on toughening up. Know that “no” is a little word, a modest word of no power, two letters, really. Our own words are stronger. We have so many of them. Wield them against the ineffectual “no.”
9. Give something back. Pass on something we know to someone else. Do something to comfort or encourage another writer. Remember that we’re a community.
10. Attend a writers’ conference. Leave our egos at home. Learn what we can learn. Know who we can know. Burn no bridges. Open ourselves to the writing world around us. Move through it with confidence and courage, knowing we have a right to be there.
There are a ton of good summer conferences. I’ll be teaching at two of them, one in North Carolina in May and another in Vermont in August. Here are the links in case anyone is interested:
Keep doing the good work! Open your heart and your spirit to the world around you.