The summer doldrums and dog days, they are here.
I thought this loose definition of "Dog Days" from Wikipedia was interesting:
"Dog Days" (Latin: diēs caniculārēs) are the hottest, most sultry days of summer. In the northern hemisphere, they usually fall between early July and early September. In the southern hemisphere they are usually between January and early March. The actual dates vary greatly from region to region, depending on latitude and climate. Dog Days can also define a time period or event that is very hot or stagnant, or marked by dull lack of progress. The name comes from the ancient belief that Sirius, also called the Dog Star, was somehow responsible for the hot weather.
Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies" according to Brady's Clavis Calendarium, 1813.
Here at What Women Write, we're all kind of in between at the moment. In between returning from vacations or leaving for vacations. In between sending visitors home or preparing to greet them.
I fall into the camp of having just sent my brother and nephew from California home, and while I'm starting to gear up for a vacation in August, it's not time to pack just yet. About three weeks stretch out before me when my I can write to my heart's content while my relatively independent teenage girls laze around or swim or have multi-night sleepovers with friends.
My writing is still progressing quite nicely, but I'm definitely entering the time of summer when I would rather take a nap than do almost anything. Going somewhere for ice cream (Hello, BRUSTER'S and SWEET SAMMIE'S!) is about the only activity that trumps naps, but because it's not practical or healthy to do it every single day, naps win the majority of the time.
As enjoyable as it is to have down time, as lovely as it is when nothing much is expected of you for a few days or weeks, it can be a bit mind numbing. So, here's a proposal: What better time is there to do some things for your writing that you might not normally do because of lack of time or energy? Here are a few ideas you might try:
- Dig out old magazines, fabrics, buttons, or anything else with texture and create that collage you've always wanted to make to see if it grounds you in your story better. For my last manuscript, I created a photo collage using snippets of photos I found online. I used it as wallpaper on my laptop. Every time I opened my computer, it reminded me what I needed to be working on, and it was also fascinating to see what parts of the collage became more or less important as my story evolved.
- Go on an artist's date to somewhere inspiring and cool, and I mean that in the literal sense of the word. Get away from the heat if you can. Take your camera. Take a notebook. Take a voice recorder. Or don't!
- Create a playlist for your WIP. I rarely listen to music while I'm doing the actual writing, but I find exploring song titles and lyrics and new-to-me musicians often creates jumping off places to new plot points, or even new story ideas if I'm ready to start something new. (Pandora.com is a great place to browse, and largehearted boy writes a fascinating blog where he frequently interviews authors about their writing playlists.)
- On a night when you don't have to get up and be somewhere early the next day, go to bed with a story question in mind. It might be as simple as asking one of your characters, "What do you want?" And I'm totally serious about the part where you don't have to be anywhere the next day. You might find yourself half sleeping, half dreaming, half thinking all night, and though your question could be answered better than you ever imagined, it might take another day and night to recover. But hey, it's the dog days, so it's all good, right?
What about you? What gets you out of the summer doldrums? What reinvigorates your senses and along with it, your muse?
Photo credit: Kristen, by permission given to her mother! Our beautiful Sophie, gazing out the window and dreaming of chasing lizards on the patio when the sun goes down.