For those of us with self-directed jobs and side projects, summer can be a productivity nightmare…but does it have to be?
I recently had a conversation with a writer friend in which I lamented how little “real” work I’ve been getting done post-Independence Day. Sure, I’m meeting deadlines for already established projects, but I’m slacking off when it comes to moving bigger internal projects forward.
Could it really be that *gasp* I don’t want to spend these beautiful summer months staring at Quickbooks?!
The guilt I feel for not being as productive as I normally am is very real. So real, in fact, that I’ve been finding myself overdoing it on iced coffees in an effort to force an eight-hour day to bear fruit, which then makes me stay up all night, which then makes me drink more iced coffee, which then...you get the picture.
My friend, a full time freelance writer, has been having the same experience. Everyone feels a lag during the summer months, but I think that those of us with self-directed jobs (or side projects) feel especially guilty about that drop in productivity. Here we are with a few months to dig deep into our projects and then...that motivation just isn’t there.
The truth is that the summer months are meant to crawl by at a snail’s pace. Everything from people to work to motivation are supposed to be in slow motion. And it’s sad for those of us with self-led projects, but true; we’re just not at our most productive during the summer.
So why not embrace it?
I think the natural instinct is to push back hard against the summer slump--we have entire days ahead of us and we’re just supposed to let them just float by like that?--but a recent article from the W/W Club kind of made me feel better, or at least less guilty about the whole thing. The idea is that you can adopt the pace of summer as your own and let that leisurely energy carry your efforts through until fall. Use the summer months to refuel and set yourself up for when we start to snap out of the lull in September.
The trick to pulling off a seamless summer-to-fall transition without turning into a human potato is to know the difference between “not doing” and “non-doing.”
Writing in the Age of Cancel Culture
Representation in publishing is more important than ever.
How can authors keep up?
As of late, the publishing world has placed significant attention on the importance of representation in both the authors of stories and in the stories themselves. We want to see richness, variety in the worlds we read about, and if that diversity comes from diverse writers, all the better! But diversity alone isn’t enough today. I’ve come across a handful of stories in the news lately about diverse authors of diverse stories who faced backlash over insensitive conduct, either in their writing or in their day-to-day life.
Natasha Tynes, a Jordanian-American author, had her book cancelled after going on Twitter to call out a D.C. metro worker -- a black woman -- for eating on the job. Her publisher characterized her tweet as “policing [a] black woman’s body.” Tynes apologized, mentioning that she was not native to the United States and wasn’t aware of the implications of her tweet, but the damage was done. Since then, Tynes has faced a barrage of racially charged attacks and is suing her publisher for defamation. She remains unpublished.
Y.A. author Amélie Wen Zhao was all set for her debut novel, Blood Heir, to be published, but withdrew the work just months before publication after critics who read the book pre-release called her depiction of slavery blatantly racist. Like Tynes, Zhao acknowledged her non-nativity to the US and by extension, her lack of awareness of the weight of slavery here, as reasons for why she wrote what she did. Six months later, Zhao’s three book contract sits in limbo as her work undergoes revision. She remains unpublished.
Kosoko Jackson, a black and queer author, withdrew the publication of his book A Place for Wolves after criticism of his portrayal of Muslims and his treatment of war in the novel. The story centered on two American boys falling in love during the Kosovo War, and had initially received loads of good press for Jackson’s tasteful handling of the subject matter, but one critical Goodreads review triggered an avalanche of negative attention on Twitter. He remains unpublished.
Clearly, the sociocultural landscape of publishing is not insulated from the goings on of the world at large. Here, just as in film or music or any other artistic arena, creators and consumers of the products of publishing are not only molded by, but evaluated by the standards of the greater context in which they operate.
Calling out racism, sexism, and prejudice is the right and important thing to do, and I’m so happy that it’s becoming the standard, but you have to accept that the aim isn’t always on the right target. With the world the way it is today, and with the massive, sometimes unpredictable shifts we’re seeing toward a more enlightened progressive social consciousness, how can writers protect themselves from charges of insensitivity without sacrificing their artistic liberty? What’s a writer to do?