Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Taking Breaks: Halfway through the summer

Yikes. August is almost here, so that means that we are more than halfway through the summer. Nope, I never said I was an optimist.

Well, maybe I am. We still have about a month left, which means there’s still time to work on that project you put off last fall, winter and spring. And early summer. With some careful planning, you can finish those lingering projects and get onto the next one that suddenly seems more exciting.

We all need to relax and reboot. Take a rest on a lawn chair in your backyard, visit friends, go to the beach, see that museum you didn’t have time to see and catch up on New Yorker magazines.

Then, take your renewed energy and apply it to that to your work.

I teach twelve months a year, so I’m not having the traditional academic’s summer where I can focus 100% on my creative projects. That’s ok, I like teaching – it really does feed my work (and, of course, we all like an income that literally does feed us.)

There are many aspects to a writing and academic life. Maybe too many. The key to avoiding going completely batty is to make lists, carefully organize your time and go through each project step by step. Some folks work better doing a little of each project every day or so and others like to work project by project. It is up to you to determine how to best balance your time and commitments.

Here are the main aspects of my writing life:

Write original poetry and essays
Edit and revise original poetry and essays
Organize the final versions into manuscripts
Submit poems, essays and manuscripts for publication
Stomach rejections and send out more work
Submit query letters for freelance work
Submit writing residency applications
Apply to reading series
Read related and challenging creative work
Attend readings, conferences and workshops

And on the academic side of things:

Revise and plan future courses
Teach for-credit classes (monitoring discussion board posts, answering student questions via email, phone and live office hours, grading papers)
Teach private students
Advertise my services
Submit academic conference proposals
Write academic papers
Stay up to date on the subjects I teach
Read related material to help improve my teaching
Attend readings, conferences and workshops
Sometimes organize readings

Yes, that’s a lot. As a poet, freelance author, private writing coach and adjunct professor, no one is standing over me reminding me of deadlines or duties. It is up to me to organize the hours of each day and be productive.

Sometimes it seems impossible and all I want to do is drink a frozen, very alcoholic drink with a large straw by the ocean in a foreign country where they don’t speak English. One where my few saved dollars can be stretched and I have nothing to do except swim and get massages. Where I lie in the sun, but never get a sunburn.

Wait a minute… that’s just a dream.

Back to reality. Usually I can work through the projects one day at a time. I only succeed in doing that by experiencing the world, going outside and surrounding myself with loved ones between the many projects.

Take a break, writing friends. Even if that means scheduling them. You can reach your goals. 

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