Top 4 Summer Writing Aids

Thursday Postcard
June 23, 2022

Who in this photo is writing?

Nobody, because it’s summertime. If you have a family or friends, or just enjoy being outside, summer can be a hard time to write.

This postcard is brought to you by my writing body, which sits for long periods and would sometimes rather be outside. Especially in nice weather. As summer has landed here on the western edge of North America after a wet spring, the thirst to be outside is stronger than ever.

This can be a pain in the ass if you’re a writer. But look no further! Here are my top four summertime writing aids.

Summer Writing Aid #1: Digital Voice Recorder

This is a little device available for about fifty bucks and great if you are verbally articulate. I use a simple Sony modelHere’s an article with more.

* It’s not your phone, so you can’t get sucked into email or social media or texts from those needy energy vampires, your family and friends;

* It’s small and portable and runs for a long time on AAA batteries;

* You look like a secret agent when you’re talking into it;

* Unless you have a big hand, in which case you look like you’re talking into your hand!

Summer Writing Aid #2: Notebook and Pen

This one seems obvious, but I was talking to a writer the other day (my friend Timothy Sullivan, who creates stunning art). He was on the bus when he had an idea for a poem, and he had to get off the bus and run into Banyen Books to make it happen. Although I believe the issue was the pen.

* Make the notebook small enough to carry, but not so small that you can’t find it;

* If you have a big purse and want a bigger notebook or a sketchbook instead, DO IT! Larger pages are good for mind maps and tables that won’t necessarily fit on a notebook page;

* Make the pen easy to find and non-leaking. Pencils are also good.

…what to do with these

Whether you use the voice memo recorder or a notebook or both, go through your output every few days and make sure you can hear your own voice or read your scribbles. If you wait until the end of summer, you might not remember what you were thinking.

Summer Writing Aid #3: Books

Books are the writer’s manna from heaven for those days when you don’t have the bandwidth to write. Example: a day at the beach with small children, or while you’re waiting to meet up with friends.

Don’t read like you’re relaxing. Read like a writer. Bring a book you love and read it with an eye to whatever your weaknesses are.

* If you have trouble getting into and out of scenes, see how they do that;

* If your character descriptions stop the action, see how those are worked in;

* If your prose is ‘meh’ or stodgy, read their sentences as slowly as possible and drink in the order of their words;

* You might also consider bringing a book outside your own genre–e.g., poetry, if you write prose. This can get you interested in words for their own sake.

Summer Writing Aid #4: Noticing

This is the big one. It brings all the other ones together. 

Noticing is the writer’s superpower. If you don’t notice, you can’t convey.

* Wherever you are, stop what you’re doing a couple of times a day (nobody has to know). Notice something specific as if you were being forced at gunpoint to put it into words.

* For example, the way a tree’s branches move in the wind. The sound of a car passing. The look on your daughter’s face when you tell her it’s time to leave.

* If you like efficiency, once you have noticed something in your environment to the point where you can put it into words, do that. Use the voice recorder or the notebook to record those words.

You will never regret this. Those little tidbits of noticing will up your game all over the place.

This summer, even if you’re trapped in the joyous cycle of family bonhomie while you (seriously) have a writing project to do, I hope these four tips will help you keep writing–if only in your head and heart.