If you want to make it as a writer, there are two things you absolutely must do: read as much as you can, and write as much as you can. Of course, there's nothing like a hot summer day with zero plans to make a deep dive into a great book seem like the best idea ever, but when you're back at home in your childhood bedroom with your parents checking up on your comings and goings, it can be tough to maintain a regular writing practice.
Without the sacred oasis of a library or a dedicated cohort of your peers regularly critiquing your work, taking the time to sit at your desk each day and struggle against the blank page can be almost unbearable. Then again, wasting a few precious months of freedom from courses and exams without writing would be a loss to significant to suffer. So, after speaking to professional writers and reaching back into my own sordid past, I've cobbled together a few tips and tricks to help you stay productive in your writing practice even while friends, family, sea, surf and unlimited basic cable beckon.
Find a Room of Your Own
It might seem like a good idea to settle in at the dining room table or make a place for yourself on the front porch, but writing in the midst of the madding crowd will be more than maddening — it will be downright unproductive. Whether you find a regular table at a local coffee shop or lock yourself in your bedroom, make sure to carve out a space where you can focus on the muse and let your family and friends fade into the background. At least for a few hours.
Create a Routine
If you spend your summer trying to carve out a few spare hours here and there, chances are you'll find yourself lounging in a lawn chair a good deal more often than you wind up working at your desk. As much as it may pain you to schedule your summer hours, if you can create a writing routine for yourself, it's far more likely you will manage to actually accomplish something over the holidays. Even if you only write for 30 minutes a day right after you wake up or as soon as you get home from work, if you can develop a habit that doesn't vary day by day you're much more likely to see results.
Put Something on Paper
There are days in the life of every writer when the words simply will not come — that's just part of the process. However, giving in to the pain of writer's block isn't going to do you any good — if you can make a point of getting something down on paper every single day, even if it's just your name over and over and over again, chances are you'll meet your muse again soon enough. After all, if you succumb to those feelings of failure and call it quits without accomplishing anything, you'll just have to face the same blank piece of paper again tomorrow.
When you're plugged in and signed on the temptation to check in with your friends on Facebook or fire off a quick Tweet to let the world know just how hard you're working can be just too much to resist. So, before you sit down to write, take the time to log off social media and silence your phone. If you really can't stop yourself from giving in to the temptation of procrastination, consider downloading a little technologically assisted willpower with an app like Self Control that allows you to block any distracting websites for a set amount of time.
Keep in Touch
Writing may seem a solitary practice when you're plugging away alone in your room for the second straight week in a row, but no great writer has ever gotten published without thoughtful advice from engaged readers and editors. While you're away from the classes, book clubs, and writers workshops that keep you going during the school year, stay in touch with friends whose advice you trust and mentors you can turn to when the going gets tough. A critical eye is vital to serious creative development, and if you're going to use your time away from school as wisely as possible, you're going to need to rely on your network.
Read as Much as You Write
With basic cable and holiday blockbusters tempting you in your time away from the desk, do what you can to resist the call of the screen and spend whatever free time you have reading. Reading as much, as often, and as seriously as you can is vital to the development of every great writer — and without all that coursework piling up on your nightstand, there really is no time like the present.
Take Yourself Seriously
Whenever I find myself bunking in my childhood bedroom for any prolonged amount of time, I notice a strange shrinkage of my self-esteem. Resist the urge to belittle your efforts and take yourself seriously as a writer — after all, if you don't believe in your abilities and your efforts, it will be all the more difficult for anyone else to have faith in your endeavors.