On Not Writing in the Summer


I am always surprised by how little I write in summer.  As school draws to a close, I have good intentions, and even think a little about the writing projects I will do when I have the time; however, those projects rarely happen. I almost never do any significant writing in the summer, and I have begun to think about why this is.  It is not common to think about writing as a cyclical and seasonal activity, but as the three of us who write this blog were having coffee the other day and talking about reading and writing, all three of us acknowledged that we had not written much, nor felt inspired to write much in the two and half months that we have been out of school

When I look back over my writing life, I know that I often have periods of intense creativity in the Fall. October and November are generally months when poems come quickly to me.  I also have written feverishly in the period of January through March.  I have wondered if this has to do with the weather, since I do prefer cooler weather to hotter.  I have thought about whether it has to do with the books I read at different times of the year, but my reading habits do not change very much from season to season. I am as likely to read serious books in the summer as I am in the winter and often have a “beach book” going when it is snowing outside.  So, I am not sure it’s weather or reading that triggers the slow- down. I have also wondered if it’s just pure laziness. When summer break starts, the months stretch out before me, and I think I will have lots of time and so procrastination sets in. Then suddenly the new semester is breathing down my neck.

Many years ago, when I was applying for a teaching position in the Goddard MFA in Writing Program, one of the people interviewing me asked me about how writing and teaching intersected for me. I told her that the two activities were intertwined, that I probably could not do one without the other.  I said that writing informs my teaching and teaching informs my writing. Every summer, I realize just how true this is.

The prevailing myth is that writing is a solitary activity. We all know the stereotype of the poet in the attic, discarded, crumpled pages piling up around him. (The stereotype does not take into account women writers who often have written, like Jane Austen, at their dining room tables.)  However, I think that for some of us, that presents a deceptive picture.  While my actual writing may take place in the solitude of my own room, the sparks for that writing come from my conversations with my students and my colleagues.  Although I often teach the same texts several semesters in a row, each set of students brings a new reading of that text. These new insights often trigger some new writing for me.  Not all of my writing has to do with teaching, but teaching keeps my mind working, keeps me thinking,  and keeps me aware of other writers.  I think I do not write much in the summer because I need the pressures, the joys and the stimulation of work to generate new writing. So, as I write this, I am beginning to anticipate the new semester that is only three weeks away not only because I am eager to get back to the classroom, but also because I know that come Fall, I will start writing again.





3 thoughts on “On Not Writing in the Summer

  1. I too, am thinking of the upcoming semester. I too, am excited. I have reviewed the names of the students that will be attending my intro class, and it is excited to think that with the new names, comes the new challanges.

  2. Great post, Jane! Perhaps you have hit the nail on the head here. I was feeling guilty about not writing a post last week and about not writing much this summer. Every summer I think I’m going to finish that novel; however, that has not happened yet in the 12 years I have been teaching. I figure I’m just burned out from reading & writing, and over the summer I simply play…and play does not always involve writing…it involves being outside and spending time with my friends (like having lunch or coffee with them). Knowing I am not alone, I will stop beating myself up about not writing.

    Thanks for the post!

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