Bad Advice Wednesday: Summer Writing

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour



Americans who weren’t rich started taking vacations before the civil war, and by the turn of the 20th Century, the middle class vacation had been perfected to an art form.  Already at that time there were newspaper articles and library recommendations for summer reading, and already the summer reading recommendations were for fiction, preferably light, plot-driven, no “heavy biographies.”  But let me propose something I’ve been trying to perfect into an art form: summer writing.

No heavy sitting at the desk all day, or beating toward miserable deadlines.  Instead, a notebook at the beach, a laptop in the shade, notes during a movie on an iPhone (darkened display!), napkins at the lobster shack, a pad of paper and pencil on a hike, gin and tonics and sonnets.

I try to fit in a littlsummere around other summer activities, too, the way I might obsessively read a great novel, fitting it in everywhere, a few minutes whenever possible, charging toward the end of my own novel, which in conception at least is great, too.  A leisurely charge, purposefully low stakes, high excitement.  So, drop my daughter at dance rehearsal (her team dances at the Skowhegan Fair every summer), and head to the Old Mill Pub over the Kennebec River  dam, 75 minutes exactly to eat some salmon and not just write a little, but to attack the most exciting chapter ahead, that climactic moment I know is coming, scratch scratch scratch with the pencil as the waitress scratches her head.  Later, in the industrious fall, when I get to that scene, I’ll have a few good paragraphs waiting for me, paragraphs imbued with that summer mood.

Another characteristic of summer reading is eclecticism, a little of this, a little of that, guilty pleasures, new authors.  Summer writing means trying out poems if you’re prosaic, or trying scenes you thought you’d never write–spies, kids in trouble, haikus, seance transcriptions, I don’t know…  But I’m the guy who stands in the stream an hour staring and calls it writing.

Bill Roorbach is a writer and gardener of weeds finally estivating after a winter and spring of hard travel and tough writing.

  1. Tommy writes:

    Learned a new word today…….. estivating! Thanks, Bill!

    Decatur Book Fair this weekend!!

  2. Suzanne LeRoy writes:

    Wonderful post!

  3. Jess writes:

    I had to find a not often used descriptive for this one. What an article. Luminescence, I decided. I find the idea of summer writing both intriguing and ingenious~ And fun! I think you should teach it! Online!

    And being able to bottle summer is so wonderful! Just to get that aware consciousness corralled is a wonder. I really only discovered that perception recently when I wrote a small piece about the changing weather as I drove up the gorge; I could actually feel the way I had felt again. It seems like the more present you are the more gets carried onto the page. It’s just so cool.

    And I’d forgotten about writing everywhere you are and what a pleasure it is. I used to do it all the time. And remembering or trying out different kinds of writing is brilliant and so refreshing to me. Great post, just what I needed.

    • Bill writes:

      Thanks… It reminds me of what painters do, carrying a little sketchbook, constant impromptu vision…

  4. Bill writes:

    This is still Appalachia, though as Yankee as can be… Poets’ traits should not be confused wtih southern traits! But I accept your compliment!

  5. Peter Peteet writes:

    Happy f’n estivus!(a Christmas in July for the rest of us).Glad to hear there is one other person who calls stream staring writing,and appreciates things “imbued with summer mood”.Weedproud and embracing eclecticism -you’re as Southern a Yankee as ever I met.