Summertime and the Writing is…?

Once you have kids, summer changes the life of an at-home writer. During the school year, your time and where you spend it is more manageable, more your own. But during the summer, your writing schedule is often dictated by your kids and their activities. And over the years I’ve found that it really doesn’t matter how old my kids are—summer still brings change.

When they were young it meant more trips to the beach, more driving to activities, lazier mornings followed by long days in the sun, barbecues with friends (mine), always having company but rarely finding time for myself. With teens it means car sharing, late (much too late) nights, staying up late to worry (a lot), washing filthy clothes from lawn mowing and landscaping jobs, long days at the beach with friends (not so much mom), and barbecues with friends (theirs). Now they’re in college it means joyful homecomings followed by working out new-found independence, serious internships/jobs balanced with (even more) car sharing, and (if you’re lucky like I am) staying up late (much too late) to watch old Nancy Drew, Reaper, Lie to Me, Samantha Who? and of course movies on Netflix.

What never has changed is the balancing (mine) of working at home while spending as much time as I can with my kids. Because no matter how old they get, one of the best perks of being an at-home writer is the time with my kids. So, as always, being flexible is key. Whereas during the school year, my time is pretty much my own (except for the wonderful interruptions of text messages, emails and phone calls), come summer (happily) not so much.

With this in mind, I’ve boiled my summer writing tools down to these essential and portable items:

My laptop. Instead of being at my desk or at the kitchen table, you are much more likely to find me with my laptop on the couch, at the dining room table, in a coffee shop, or at the library. That’s because the kitchen table is often home to a college student’s work, laptop, books, friends, life, etc.

A camera. This has become more and more essential to my blog, and I rarely leave the house without it anymore.  Especially in the summer, when I don’t know what bird, moose (or other animal), flower or building (or other thing) I might see. In short, I always want it with me.

My iPhone. Now that I’m on the go a lot more of the time, I am even happier that I got an iPhone. I can check my email and/or keep up with my kids via texting (because texts are the new phone calls), in a pinch use it as a camera, and of course tweet and read blogs and use the voice recorder or take notes on it.)

A small notebook. I always have one of these with me (even during the school year), but I find I use it a lot more often when I’m on the road or waiting in the car or a passenger in the car when one of my kids is driving.

My new mug. A few months ago I wrote a blog about my favorite mug getting broken. Well, I’m happy to report that I now have a new mug! MOD (My Outstanding Daughter) went to a local clay painting studio and painted one of their mugs for me! In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that we went together to pick out the right mug for her to paint (she’d read my blog and was concerned that she couldn’t possibly live up to my “guidelines.”). The result, I think you’ll agree, is so much more than I ever could have hoped for! And it is now my favorite summer accessory!

How does summer change your writing schedule? What are your essential summer writing tools?



  1. What a gorgeous job your daughter did on that mug!! And how great to have your broken one replaced.

    Strangely (or should I say Square-Peggedly?), I don’t see much difference in my summer vs. any other season writing…

    But I SO get you with the delight of spending time with our kids, even when they’re grown! And I’m kinda green about the iPhone – lol – but I’ll change that to excited FOR you, not envious (give me a minute for the shift). grin.

  2. Karen, Thanks — I love the mug, too 🙂 I am a little embarrassed to admit just how much I love my iPhone… it’s a pretty amazing (and fun) tool! Thanks for your comment, and glad the seasons don’t make a change for your writing!

  3. Lisa Ahn says:

    The mom/writer balance is the one I’m trying to work out now. Theoretically, it should be easier in the summer — during the regular year, I homeschool the kids and my teacher-husband is at work. During the summer, we do just a little school each day and my husband is home to help. It should be writer glory days! Somehow, I’m still adjusting the balance, hoping I’ll get it right!

  4. Lisa, For me, the mom/writer balance has been a continuum of adjustments and re-balancing — just when it seems things are reaching equilibrium they shift again! I think it’s the nature of the jobs (both of them!!). It’s one of the things that is the most challenging, but I also love most about both… How very nice for your whole family to be together during the summer! I love those days best!

  5. Ann says:

    HI Julia! I’m going to try again….I’m home now on my Mac!

    Summer means more grilling for me and walking later at night, due to the heat here.

    Since I’m new to blogging, I’ll know if my schedule changes next year!

    The new mug is fabulous!

  6. Ann, YAY it came through!! Oh, I love grilling in the summer time, and we are between grills (need to buy one) so it’s hard right now! Glad you like the mug; I’ll pass your and Karen’s comments on to my daughter — I think it’s pretty terrific, too! 🙂

  7. LRM says:

    hey what a cool mug! I like the camera too!

  8. LRM, Thanks so much for your comment and for your visit to my blog! It is a cool mug isn’t it (I’ll pass on your comment to my daughter) & the camera is great too. Thanks again for your comment to my blog!

  9. Leah says:

    While summer won’t change too much for me since I still have to work (except this week of vacation!), I have noticed things like a laptop does help. You can carry it around throughout the house, spend time with family and jot down a few things here and there. In fact, right now, I’m reading/typing on the couch while Sophie is enjoying some morning TV time. I also carry my camera with me all the time. You never know when you’ll come across a great photo idea.

  10. Beautifully written! I was sorry when this post was over.

    It also made me a little sad. My grown-up daughter (and my grandson) live far away in another state, and money for airfare is hard to come by, so I don’t have those kinds of happy summer interruptions. But I did enjoy the feeling of how much you appreciate yours. :~)

    I had to laugh when your daughter expressed her concern about not living up to your “guidelines” for the all-important coffee mug. And, yes, she totally aced it with the design and painting. It’s gorgeous! Lucky you.

  11. Leah, Hope you had a wonderful vacation week! The laptop really does make “family time” more possible while working, although it’s pretty funny with my daughter home, at night we’re all on our computers & phones at the same time….crazy life! Glad to hear you’re another camera-carrying-writer, too.

    Milli, Thanks so much; made my day with your comment about the beautiful writing 😀 Sorry to have made you a little sad; I can sense those days approaching so I know what you mean. I think it’s funny that you picked up on MOD’s concern about mug “guidelines,” she and I had quite the discussion, and she almost backed out at the last minute due to her questioning if I’d be satisfied… not that I’m tooo picky 😀 She’ll be thrilled with your comments!

  12. Brenda says:

    I love reading about other writer’s rituals as much as I like writing. I am not locked to a desk or routine. I tend to sit on my bed (when I at home) and write, but it’s not a must to be sitting there to be creative. Today we are the beach and I am sitting in an adirondack chairs in front of a delightful coffee house, writing, while the monkeys brave the chilly Central coast waters of California. Like you, I’ve started to carrying a camera. Sometimes the pictures find their way to my posts, and sometimes I save them for writing inspiration and prompts later. Great post and love that mug. Brenda

  13. My husband is home more in the summer, so that sometimes makes things more difficult. My house isn’t quiet during my writing time. I always manage to deal though.

  14. Brenda, I’m so with you on reading about other writer’s rituals — several of my older posts are about writer’s desks and quirks! It’s fascinating! I wish I could sit on my bed — just not that comfy for me. The adirondack chairs sound AMAZING on the beach! WOW! Central CA coast waters…anywhere near Cambria? (My parents have a house there…and I LOVE that area!) Thanks for the comment and the visit to my blog!

    Kelly, I love the days when we’re all home (even if it’s harder to find the writing time)… it is interesting that as people flow through the house & scene, my writing mood changes. It’s pretty funny, even the dog acts differently as people ebb and flow through the house!

  15. You sound like such a wonderful mom, Julia. Your kids are lucky!

  16. Melissa, Thank you so much for the ENORMOUS compliment on my #1 job! But believe me when I say: I’m the lucky one!

  17. Cynthia Robertson says:

    Lovely new mug, Julia. MOD did an outstanding paint job on it.
    Your life sounds perfect. Enjoy!

  18. Cynthia, MOD will be thrilled to hear the compliment 🙂 As for my life sounding perfect? I feel very lucky to enjoy a good life (even though it’s not always perfect!).

  19. Ado says:

    That is SOME artsy daughter you have! I love the mug. I’m w. you on the flexibility front – but lately I always seem to be in a supine position while writing, always on my laptop, can never find the dang plug b/c there are so many place to lie around the house…or is it lay around the house? I still can’t get the verb “to lie” right. Anyway…

  20. Ado, Awww, so glad you love the mug! MOD will be thrilled to hear the compliment (she’s very artistic but science is really her thing!) Love the supine writing…. gives a whole new meaning to flexibility! Can you see it? yoga for writers! 🙂 What a great business idea: teaching writers how to do yoga WHILE writing!

  21. Lisa Kramer says:

    I was just thinking this morning how summer does not seem to be the time for writing. Or at least this summer isn’t for me. A few summers ago I finished my one major book for young adults (that now gathers dust without a home) but this summer the writing has become elusive. Many of my favorite bloggers seem to have disappeared for a while as well. I’m trying to use the notebook more, and forgive myself if I don’t write as much.

  22. Lisa, Writing does seem to go in cycles for me as well — and it is so influenced by everything else going on in my life — so I know just what you mean when you say your writing “has become elusive.” That’s interesting about many bloggers disappearing too; I’ve been thinking the same about comments and commenters. We all have much to do and focus on in the summer including a little time to recharge (and forgive ourselves for it!). Thanks so much for your comment & have a great summer!

  23. Jennifer O. says:

    LOVE the mug.

    I am still adjusting to this summer schedule. While the kids are at achool, I’d find myself writing around mid-morning. Now, it is when they’re asleep–very late at night, or very early in the morning.

    The smartphones are invaluable. There is a lot of criticism aimed at them, but my smartphone frees time up for me…I can be at the park with them and check my mail or twitter every half hour and it’s all ok.

    Between reading, reviewing books, spending time with the kids, and struggling to get some of my own writing done, it is a challenge. And no day is like the day before.

    New follower, btw.

  24. Jennifer, I’ll pass your compliment along to my daughter! I love the mug too! It really is hard to adjust…no question. It’s challenging, and often when my kids were younger, I just stopped worrying about it and enjoyed the moments. It’s a little easier now to set schedules, but I’ve got to say — still the same: if one of them wants or needs my attention, everything else falls by the wayside!! As a much-older mom friend said to me: “once a mom always a mom, and you always worry” and her kids are older than I am….!! 🙂 p.s. so glad to have you as a new follower; thanks for the comment! Have a great summer, and come back and tell me about it!

  25. says:

    It’s harder for me to write when I’m physically uncomfortable. In Winter my fingers hurt on the keyboard because they’re cold– in Summer my head’s foggy when it’s too hot and humid! (You can tell how cheap I am just from reading that sentence! Or maybe I’m just eco-minded. Yes that’s it!) I like your thoughts about using a camera. I just went out with mine yesterday and thought up a post for next week!

    And congratulations to you on the award from Lisa!

  26. Re, Thanks so much for the visit to my blog & for your comment! (It was so nice of Lisa to give me the award!) I know exactly what you mean about too cold in winter and too hot in summer (although I do have a small air conditioner in the window so I can keep from being *too* foggy!). I’ll look forward to checking out your blog post next week inspired by your camera outing! Thanks again for your visit to my blog!

  27. CMSmith says:

    I agree 100% with your writing tools. I’m envious that you have kids who are still coming home. And you’re lucky to have such a sweet, thoughtful and talented daughter.

  28. Christine, I feel very, very lucky that my two kids will each spend (at least part of) the summer here with us! I will pass your really sweet compliment on to my daughter — I feel very lucky that she made me such a lovely mug. (p.s. here’s to learning more about using my iPhone so I can do even more while away from home!! let’s post more tips on Twitter!! 🙂

  29. Love the mug!

    You know that I can relate to the summertime writing dilemma. I have a yellow legal pad in the car, so I can jot down notes when necessary. It’s tough, but I’m writing in the pauses.

  30. Amanda, The legal pad’s a wonderful idea… my current notebook is very very small (so I don’t need to carry a large purse — I hate purses, that’s another story), and yesterday when I was out on errands I saw something I had to write about and I took up about three pages in the notebook! That legal pad sounds like just the ticket! p.s. I’ve gotten pretty attached to the mug, now, too…and I almost broke it yesterday when I hit it against the microwave. As a mom, I know you must know that sick feeling…

  31. Hi Julia!

    I love reading your post about the changes that summer brings. And you know what? I got a new mug too! It’s from The Rumpus and says “Write Like a M*therf****. But it doesn’t use asterisks.

    Here’s wishing us BOTH some summer success!

    ~ Amy

  32. Hi Amy! So glad you dropped by to see how my summer is progressing–or NOT progressing. It’s so interesting how mom challenges/duties change over time, isn’t it? I love having my kids home, but the readjustments can be a challenge! (p.s. love your new mug! 🙂