The summer solstice will soon be upon us (officially June 21at 5:51am central time). According to astronomy, summer solstice is when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator, the longest day of the year. I’ve been looking forward to summer since last November here in Nebraska (and it’s been a bitterly cold winter here). It’s difficult for me to muster much energy in the winter when it’s blowing icicles, so I’m not usually at my most productive during the winter. But just when I’m looking forward to some heat, our Great Plains summers overdo it a bit, and it’s 95 degrees in the shade with a million percent humidity, zapping any energy I’ve mustered. Even when I try to schedule in a day of writing, sometimes my lethargic brain just doesn’t want to cooperate with my ambition.
But solstice also can be defined as a “turning point.” As practicing writers, sometimes we come to a solstice, or turning point, in our writing practice. This is a good time of year to reflect on our practice, to decide if it’s working for us, and to refocus if it’s not.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to motivating oneself to write. The first school believes you absolutely must write every day, no matter what, if you want to call yourself a writer. The other school of thought believes that trying to force writing can have negative consequences, possibly even writer’s block. I’m not sure I accept either. The more I attempt to instill mindfulness practices into my life, the more forgiving I have become of not living up to other’s expectations, and one of those expectations is that to be a writer, you have to write every day. However, I also believe that there is something to showing up.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King
Showing up means putting in the time and work, whether you are actually getting words down on paper or not. When I have a particularly bad day, feeling lethargic and uninspired, reading always works to motivate me. I love reading short stories or essays when I’m writing, as they are not too long to take me away from the work at hand, but long enough to inspire.
“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”― Ernest Hemingway
I am also a planner, and when I get stuck, I have usually run out of plan and need to pause and regroup, before moving forward with my writing. And like Ernest Hemingway, who always stopped his writing at the end of the day in the middle of a scene where he could easily pick up the next day, try ending your writing day on an upswing of inspiration, so you’ll know exactly how you want to pick up the next day.
Trying to force yourself to write when you are tired or not feeling well might eventually lead you to hate writing, and we don’t want that. Take a break if you feel you need one – and don’t beat yourself up for taking a break! You might just need time to rest, refocus, and refresh the well, through whatever means that works for you.
Happy solstice :)