Summertime Blues


AI3fvkuDoes anybody else get lazy about writing in the summer? My kids are home, and it’s sunny, and there’s so much to do. And to read. And movies to catch up on.

Every year in August, I have this urge to go shopping for office supplies and clothing and shoes. I know this is a holdover from going to school (and given that I have a PhD, I went to school a LONG time, plus I taught for another 15 years, plus now the kids are in school–can we say it’s ingrained? Yes, we can).

But I think summertime vacation is ingrained in me, too. Again, up until three years ago, I taught or went to school, and summer was the time to catch up on everything else. Of course, I also did a lot of writing, but because I lived in the land of the ice and snow, summer was also the time to get outside and bask in the warmth and the greenery. Now I spend a lot of time gardening.

When I was in my PhD program, my advisor told me one time–academics don’t take weekends off. That’s when you do your research and writing and you’ll never finish your PhD if you think that you can take your weekends off. She was right. I also did a huge amount of writing on my vast and unfinished trunk fantasy while writing my dissertation (the latter is on my website if you ever want to take a look. It’s 300 pages long, plus the bibliography, and it’s all about Victorian women writers, empire, the domestic angel, and the way hegemony structures who we are and can be).

So I learned then to work All The Time. Turns out that this isn’t so healthy. It was a real problem when I had kids and had to choose between work and writing and family. The choice was usually easy, but the angst it caused was painful. Even now, it’s hard to draw lines between work time and not work time. That’s a writer’s dilemma, because you are always writing, even when you’re not. You’re thinking, gathering ideas, writing notes, plotting . . . It never really stops. And that’s fabulous. I love that. But it also makes it harder for you to recognize that you have to focus on the here and now and life and family.

I started doing this thing a few months ago where I wore a hat when I was drafting. It was my drafting hat/creative hat and when it was on, I couldn’t revise and I couldn’t wander off to facebook or twitter or whatever I might distract myself with. Sometimes I think I need another hat for when I’m supposed to be in just home/family/fun/not-writing mode.

That brings me back to the summertime blues. I think maybe I’ve overdone it in the year and my brain is resisting. It’s telling me to fill the well with experiences. That writing at this moment is not about putting words down, but about filling myself up with all the bits and tangles that feed the creativity. It’s a time for composting, not gardening. But once that richness is redeveloped, I’ll be back to making words.

Does anybody else have holdovers from the school years? I’m really curious.



author pic francis


Diana Pharaoh Francis writes books of a fantastical, adventurous, and often romantic nature. Her award-nominated books include The Path series, the Horngate Witches series, the Crosspointe Chronicles, and Diamond City Magic books, and the Mission:Magic series. She’s owned by two corgis, spends much of her time herding children, and likes rocks, geocaching, knotting up yarn, and has a thing for 1800s England, especially the Victorians. For more about her writing, visit She can also be found on twitter as @dianapfrancis.


3 comments to Summertime Blues

  • Hepseba ALHH

    When I started grad school, the seasons all started to blur together working wise because I was now always at work (research) and the school year had less and less effect on me. *But* now I’m not in grad school and have a family and a house with a big garden, summertime is once again a time of !doing !lots of !things! So, while I’ve been feeling bummed that my word count is so abysmal right now, I’m also *trying* to give myself a little bit of a break about it because, yeah, when I’m busy, more time doesn’t *magically* appear, and some of the time I need that turns out to be non-negotiable is my resting/reading/watching-movies/hanging-out-with-husband time. And that’s just the way it is. I have to *like* living my life.

    And now I need to also remember to add your point: The well also needs to get filled up sometimes, and that’s just as important. Thank you for the reminder!

  • I sometimes get that way in the summer, unable to be productive in June or July. This year, specific deadlines meant I had to be very productive, both with writing/re-writes, and my copy editing job. So I’m letting myself have some fun, after this stressful year. Free Doubleclicks concert at the Nerd Bar? Yes, please!