This post is dedicated to Terri, Beth, & Cyndy–thanks for keeping me on your calendar, guys!
Summer is here. For so many of us, this means a shift in structure, in organization. Even if you are working full-time, there may be a vacation coming up, with plans to make, shopping & packing to do. If you have kids, they may hit the camp circuit, but there’s still more free-time to fill and maybe more driving them around from place to place. If you’re like me, you’re happy to have a child who sleeps in, but you’re also wanting to spend more time with your kids, since that’s what summer is for.
In the midst of this, we all face the struggle to stick to our writing, to keep on track with a current project. Still, writing can be done at home, in bits and pieces if necessary.
Unless you’re in an online group, critiquing typically means getting out of the house. Even if you do critique online, it can be harder to get to, if you’re on the way out the door to take the kids to the pool, or if you’re dug into the closet-cleaning project you’ve put off all year. As another thing to schedule, perhaps another time-slot for which to find day-care, critique-time may look like something you need to reschedule, or even push away, during the summer.
Try not to let this happen.
If you’re in a strong critique group, you know how important it is to your motivation and productivity. If you let the critique part of your life slip for 10 weeks (or the twelve that some other people’s children seem to have!), your writing will most likely slip along with it. What if you’ve just spend the last 5 days at Disneyland. Or you’ve spent a week camping in the Blue Ridge mountains. You’ve had a wonderful time, but–of course–you haven’t been doing any writing.
Getting together with your critique partners will remind you not just that you should get back to your project, but that you want to.
What if you’re busy packing. You’ve got that Alaskan cruise to get ready for; the kids need new bathing suits, and you need a good-to-see-you present for the great-aunt who lives in one of the port cities. In the middle of this all, you have a critique session scheduled. For a couple of your chapters.
The feedback you get at that meeting will simmer in your brain while you’re on the cruise, and you’ll come back with a better understanding of that character who should be doing a bit more growing, or that plot point you need to add for more tension.
Even if you aren’t getting as much writing done as you like this summer, your critique sessions will keep that writing present in your mind. If you have nothing to critique, which can happen these months, bring your laptops or notebooks and write. Even if those are the only pages you produce that month, you produced them. You’re that much further along on the path. Even if you spend the time brainstorming with the other writers, about their novels, you’re waking up your brain, spurring it on to think creatively about something other than which sunscreen to buy or how much watermelon the refrigerator will hold.
Do what you can to keep your critique time on the calendar. If you need to reschedule a meeting, reschedule it; don’t cancel. If you need to bring the kids along, think about moving your usual meeting place. Swap the coffeehouse for the bookstore, where each kid can get a book to read and a pastry to eat. Or figure out who has the best video-game system and see about using that for the critique base this summer. (Yes, if Caroline Ingalls had owned a Wii, she’d have let the girls play while she and Pa put up that house!) Ask an older kid to play parent’s helper, and offer a bonus if you don’t get interrupted, and there’s no blood or fire visible by the end of the meeting.
Of course there will be times when a meeting cannot happen. People get sick, or sun-burned. Long-family vacations fill up the weeks. The county fair comes to town. Life happens.
Try, though. You have made a commitment to this group, and it is not just a commitment to be there for the other writers; it is a commitment to be there for yourself. As the title says, be persistent–be stubborn. Challenge yourself to honor your critique time this summer, to keep it as a top priority.
It will pay off. Honest.