Help Getting Through the Time of Great Forgetting
Every year now for the last three or four years I have talked about something I notice with beginning and early-career writers. It happens like this:
Writers are all excited at the first of the year, make resolutions, plans, challenges. All great with great intentions for their coming year of writing and production. And for months, things are working great.
Somewhere around the last of April to the first of June, life from the outside starts to intrude and the writing takes a back seat, slowly, over weeks or a month.
And then the writing is forgotten for the most part, or at least lowered so far down the priority scale as to be a distant cousin to what it was at the start of the year.
Somewhere around the middle of July to the middle of August, the great awakening happens as writers realize they have stopped or things have gone slow for three months and all the beginning year excitement has been lost.
Most writers at this point have no idea what went wrong and search for anything to blame, including family, travel, job, too hot, and so on and so on…
Some early-stage writers never regain any kind of speed until the big writing challenge in November.
The time of May, June, and July is what I call The Time of Great Forgetting.
I have watched it over and over and over for years, and then when we started the online workshops, it became really clear. I studied it more, talking with other writers and watching all kinds of places for how this played out.
It does not really bother full-time fiction writers who have been at the writing for a time. Writing is what we do all the time. It pays our bills and is something we enjoy. We often have our own personal down cycles, but they do not match this spring forgetting.
Two Major Problems That Result
— The biggest problem is restarting. Once writing is stopped, or drained down, the restart process is painful for some reason. And on the indie side, missing publishing new work along the way can also drain down the income as money (for most) is new-work dependent.
— Brings in massive self-doubt because dropping off challenges and other things started at the beginning of the year feels like failure. And makes starting again even more painful. Also, because of the self-doubt, the critical voice has a ripe feeding ground and anything you were working on now looks like crap. More books get tossed out unfinished around August than I want to think about.
Some Help Getting Your Writing Through the Next Three Months
1… Plan a writing schedule now for the next three months.
This sounds simple but is not. Look at all the events, the vacations, the graduations, the yard work, the sports events, and so on, and then talk to your family about how you are going to keep writing through this time.
Be reasonable on the amount. Don’t try to match what you were doing in January and February, but do enough to keep your writing active. Imagine how good you will feel in August if you hit this?
Make sure the time is away from events. Get up early, stay up an hour later, whatever to keep the time with your family there, but also keep your writing.
And focus on making writing a play time, a fun time for you to go invent new worlds and stories. Attitude is critical on this. Writing can’t be work or you will forget it. Make writing play.
Then write the proposed schedule down, share it with your family, get their help.
2… Set a project deadline.
This won’t work at all, since you will forget, unless you are sharing it with other writers, and have some real weight to the deadline.
Somehow make the deadline as if you are turning in a book to a New York editor. Can’t miss deadline.
Again, be reasonable. Look at your schedule, look at all the stuff that will get in the way. Last thing you want to do is set up a deadline that will fail because of your family and events. Don’t do that to your writing.
The key is the weight to the deadline and sharing it with writers who are also trying not to forget. Set up an e-mail list between three or four of you and just share page count twice a week. Be accountable.
That helps the focus remain on the writing enough to keep most of the forgetting away. Not all, but most.
If you have a group of four writers doing this, expect two of them to vanish along the way and emerge in August feeling sheepish and discouraged. Just saying. You don’t want to be one of the two that vanishes.
3… Set Outside Schedules
The summer is heavy with numbers of things concerning writing.
First off, there are genre conventions everywhere. And some writer’s conferences. If you plan on attending a couple of those during the months of forgetting, you won’t forget the writing. The outside schedule will keep you focused enough to keep writing. Strange how it works, but it does work.
Set things like online workshops. You know we do them here at WMG right through the summer on both craft and business. Those have set deadlines every week for six weeks. Also David Farland ( https://mystorydoctor.com ) does workshops. And professional writer Leah Cutter is doing both interior design and covers workshops this summer as well. ( http://krpworkshops.com/)
And there are others out there, but just make sure they are taught by long-term professional writers. But workshops normally have deadlines and those deadlines, imposed from the outside, will keep you focused.
4… Read writing books
You are going to be doing a lot of sitting around, resting, and other summer-like things. Instead of taking that latest novel by your favorite author, take along some writing books. Lawrence Block has some great ones, one just updated and reissued. Or read the Stephen King book on writing.
If you focus on reading writing books over the next three months, it will keep your mind focused on producing words as well and keep you from forgetting the writing.
I Am Sure There Are Other Ways
Each writer will find his or her way to deal with this problem. Feel free to suggest ways here in the comments if you have found a way that worked for you in the past.
One thing that might help some of you is the attitude of being a professional writer. No professional besides teaching (that I know of) takes off three or four months in the middle of the year.
But I honestly don’t want to take time away from the writing. For me, the writing is the fun, the joy, the scary part, the exciting part.
So attitude is everything in this time. But attitude alone won’t get you through the power of the time of great forgetting.
And until the day comes that your writing is just who you are, figure out a way to help yourself through the next three months and stay productive and having fun.
You will be very happy in August that you do so.