Symbol of summer writing anxiety: pale woman in a brown dress holding her long black hair as she curls in a ball.

3 Ways to Beat Summer Writing Anxiety

A couple of weeks ago, a student asked the following question: “I’ve made so much progress over the past few months. I should feel so good about the momentum I’ve built, so why do I feel so fearful about what lies ahead?”

I paused and scanned the group.

Other students nodded.

Smiling, I said, “’Tis the season for summer writing anxiety to creep up.”

Family-focused vacations, childcare issues, and, let’s face it, the desire to be anywhere but your writing desk can make summer the least productive time of year—especially if you’re working on an emotionally tough project. 

If you’ve recently made a lot of progress or set an aggressive project deadline, reading this might sound terrifying.

But here’s the good news: While summer might change your writing mojo, it doesn’t have to derail your projects.

There are three reasons writers experience summer writing anxiety:

  • We fear summer interruptions will trash our momentum
  • We’re ready for a break but afraid to take one
  • We fear a lack of structure

Progress-Related Summer Writing Anxiety

Maybe you’re a new writer, or someone who’s been struggling to find time to write. Over the past few months, you’ve FINALLY built some momentum. It’s felt so good to watch your word count climb or to receive workshop-related praise on your manuscript’s improvements.

Who the hell wants that to end?

But as I said in this essay on the ways writers block their success, all writing lives ebb and flow. For some of us, summer will be a major ebb.

Here’s what to do if you’re navigating one:

  • Create a summer goal.
  • Identify all the disruptions to your schedule, including vacations, visits from family, days that are too good to be inside, and anything else that might affect your writing schedule.
  • For each disruption, knock five to ten percent off your goal.
  • To meet this more realistic goal, give yourself permission to write in different mediums (like voice recordings) or in different places (like at the beach).
  • Schedule regular meetings with an accountability partner who will help you stay on track.
  • Halfway through summer, assess your progress. If you’ve completed less than fifty percent of your goal, knock another ten- to twenty percent off what you want to accomplish.

I know what you might be thinking, {$name}. If I continue to whittle down my goal, I’ll NEVER complete my project.

Setting and nailing realistic goals will amp up your motivation once the fall arrives. Think about how you’ll feel if you get MORE done. That’s so much better than the A for effort you’ll give yourself if you miss your mark. 

B-word Related Summer Writing Anxiety

The number one fear most writers have is that they’ll set their projects aside and never return to them. Or worse, they’ll stop writing all together. But breaks aren’t just scary. They can feel like the antithesis of the writing life. I mean, AREN’T WRITERS SUPPOSED TO WRITE?

Breaks are the places where we have experiences that become the material we can write about. They’re also a time when our minds relax and solve the problems we’ve been fighting through. Instead of resisting your need for a break, let it do its work. Then have faith that you’ll be called back to the page when the time is right. 

If you’re in need of a break, but anxious about taking one, here’s what to do:

  • Reframe what breaks mean. Feel free to use this acronym I just created (Becoming Rested Enough to Authentically Kick-butt).
  • Before you take your break, establish its length. For some parents or caregivers, that might be until the kiddos are back in school, but not necessarily (see below).
  • Mark your start and end date on your calendar.
  • Allow yourself to fully embrace your break, knowing your kick-butt season is around the corner.
  • If fears of quitting won’t disperse, schedule a meeting with your accountability partner on the first day of your return. 

Structure-Related Summer Writing Anxiety

If your winter and spring were packed with classes, you might feel nervous about working on your own over the summer. But a break from structure might be exactly what you need. Working solo could give you the confidence that your writing life isn’t dependent on instructors or other students—it’s something you own. Solo writing time can also allow you to integrate what you’ve learned.

You integrate your studies by reflecting on what you’ve learned and how you’ll use it, practicing these skills, and combining this new information with the rest of what you know.

To lean into this independent time, try the following:

  • Create a summer writing schedule.
  • Commit some of your schedule toward integration.
  • Use the rest of your time for writing whatever brings you pleasure.
  • Meet with your accountability partners to discuss your summer progress.

Parent bonus: If you’ve got little ones at home, and you absolutely don’t want to devote all your writing time to childcare, make your writing time a family affair. Setting aside time to work on your projects models the importance of nurturing your dreams and gives others permission to do the same. That makes your writing time a teachable moment for those you love and care for.

Here’s how to turn your writing goals into a family affair:

  • Identify a realistic amount of time your kiddos can work independently.
  • During a family meeting on individual goals, ask each person what they’d like to work on during your independent writing time.
  • Ask them what they’d like as a reward for supporting your goals. When I’ve walked clients through this activity, the most asked for reward was their parents’ undivided attention.

Whatever your summer brings, please know that I’m holding space for your success. It’s what you’re made for. Finding the plan that works for you is how you’ll always write on.

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