summer vacation · teacher-as-writer · Teachers who write

Treat Yourself to a Summer of Writing

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

As the school year winds to a close, educators make plans (or, in some cases, assert their intention NOT to plan) for how they will spend their summer break. 

We know from experience that what looks like a big, beautiful expanse of open space on the calendar can pass in what feels like no time at all. 

Or, we might suffer from I’ll-get-to-that-this-summer-itis, where we find ourselves putting off tasks with this mantra until there is no possible way to accomplish everything we’ve tabled for summer in the course of eight weeks. Panic ensues. Overwhelmed by it all, productivity evaporates, and the summer ends with an unfinished to-do list. Or, alternately, we buckle down, determined to tackle that list and end the summer in a frenzy of over-activity. Either way—not ideal.

Now is the time to prioritize, before we’ve surrendered to summer and find ourselves powerless to change course.

If you’ve determined that carving out space for your own writing life is important this summer, here are a few tips for making it happen: 

Tip #1: Think about what will fill you up. 

Consider what will bring you energy and joy to create. This (of course) does not mean that every time you sit down to write it will feel joyful. Writing is hard—for EVERYONE. It is good for writers of all ages to be reminded of that. But if you choose a project or a process that has meaning for you, writing will be an energy-giving experience (overall, if not day by day). What will you be proud to have created by August? It might be a product, or it could be a habit.

What is the writing you need this summer? Is your purpose personal or professional? 

  • Maybe you read something that inspired you—a poem, a novel, an article, an Instagram post—and your fingers are itching to give it a go. 
  • Perhaps you have a family member or friend with a milestone event coming up—a big birthday, a wedding, an addition to the family, a first job. . . and you want to write a speech or create a special gift.
  • You might have a friend or relative far away in need of connection, and you want to build an old school habit of letter writing/story telling.
  • In the hustle bustle of daily life, you might be seeking a routine that offers an outlet for processing experiences or thinking.
  • You and your teammates might be ideating around a new form of informational writing for writers to engage in next year, and you want to try it out yourself in advance (always best practice, BTW). 
  • Perhaps you’ve noticed an imbalance in your conferring skills based on the type of writing or part of the process, and you recognize that spending more time working as a writer yourself in that area would build your toolbox for supporting kids. 
  • There might be a seed idea germinating in the back of your mind that is desperate to see the light of day!

Whether you choose to focus on one special project or to experiment with a new form of writing each week, choose the thing(s) with the potential to light you up inside.

Tip #2: Keep it low stakes. (Unless making it high stakes is what drives you.) 

Stacey shared a post recently about writing as a form of play, and everything she says about the way writing serves as play for kids is equally true for adults. Learners of all ages can more readily become immersed in creative, divergent, high-level thinking work when that thinking work feels like an invitation into play. That playful writing can live in your writer’s notebook, and it’s okay if you are the only one who sees it. For many people, keeping the stakes low makes it more comfortable to take risks, to try new things.

For me, it helps to raise the stakes. For example, I’m working on a middle grade novel, and one of my goals for this summer is to finish drafting it. Knowing there is someone ready to read it (like a potential agent) is motivating. As much as I embrace the playfulness of writing and having space to write without pressure, I also find purpose and authentic audience to be powerful drivers. 

Authentic purpose and audience can come in many forms. It might be a blogging community, family member(s), a future classroom of students, or a writing group. The trick is to figure out what you need: the accountability of some healthy stakes or the freedom to frame your project(s) as pressure and deadline free. If you choose the wrong driver for you, you’ll end up dreading rather than looking forward to writing time.

Tip #3: Tell someone who will cheer you on. 

This is an important step. There’s something about stating an intention out loud that keeps many people accountable. (I know it works for me!) That person doesn’t even need to be a writer—just someone who cares about you and will be sure to ask how your writing is going. (They don’t even have to read it!) I have multiple people in my life who regularly check in to ask how my writing is going, even if they don’t ever get into the weeds of it. It still helps to know they know writing matters to me. That identity as writer keeps me writing.

I also have a weekly “write-in” over Zoom with two writer friends who live on the East and West coasts. This group is perfect for setting goals and talking details. We have a shared understanding for how challenging this part of the writing process is: all post-MFA, querying agents, and beginning to submit work for publication. Sometimes we share projects and offer each other feedback. Sometimes we’re overthinking a response we received and we’re looking for encouragement or advice.

I know that if the week before I said my plan was to write three new scenes for my novel and revise a picture book, the next week they’ll expect me to share how that’s going. We keep each other accountable every time we show up to check in and write. We are rooting for each other to succeed, and that is the best feeling.

Perhaps a friend or a writing group is what you need to start and keep writing this summer.

Tip #4: Reward yourself for sticking to it. 

Yes, writing should be its own reward. And. . . treating yourself for following through with your plan won’t hurt anyone. Sometimes it’s the treat that gets us out the door. For example, I have a favorite coffee shop. Knowing that’s where I’m headed to write is a bonus. It’s not the reason I write, but that dirty spicy chai is something to look forward to as I’m packing up my bag to head over there. 

I also love to write outside. So on weekdays, when I need an extra push to leave work in enough time to write, it’s the thought of big blue sky and sun filtering through the trees at my (second) favorite writing spot that gets me there. 

Choose the reward that fits you:

  • Post on two Slice of Life Tuesdays in a row and treat yourself to a new book.
  • Write poetry on the back porch over your morning coffee and gift yourself an extra 15 minutes to listen to the birds sing. 
  • Show up for yourself on the days you’ve put writing on your calendar and add an outing that will replenish your creative reserves—a visit to an art museum, a movie at the theater on a rainy afternoon, a trip to the nursery to buy plants for the garden.

Whatever you decide, know that tending to your own writing life ultimately makes you a stronger teacher of writers. Making space for writing, play, self-expression, and supporting yourself (and others) in setting and achieving goals can be life changing.

How will you treat yourself to a summer of writing? I would love to hear your plans in the comments below, if you’re willing to share! 

Posts Encouraging Teachers of Writers to Write:

This is the Year I’m Going to Write Alongside my Students by Lanny Ball

Straight From Students: Why Teachers Should Write by Melanie Meehan

Writing Your Way Into a New Year: Be a Lead Writer in 2023 by Sarah Valter

It’s Not Magic (but it IS): The Power of Being a Teacher Who Writes by Amy Ellerman

4 thoughts on “Treat Yourself to a Summer of Writing

  1. Unfortunately, I have to have surgery this summer, but one of my daughters said, “You will get to write!” That was the best encouragement ever. Thanks for the tips. I do want to make writing a priority after my health is better. And writing doesn’t require lifting anything heavier than your own fingers.

    Liked by 1 person

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