The Dog Days Doldrums: Or, Be Good to Yourself Even When You’re Doing Nothing

It’s the dog days. It’s the doldrums. It’s the nothing’s happening time. When I was growing up in sunny SoCal, this was the deep middle of summer, which for us ran from when school was out in early June until school started again after Labor Day. Endless days, warm nights. Lots of time with nothing to do but run the imagination. Read a book. Play solitaire (with cards; didn’t have computers then). Try to stay cool without A/C. A lot of time doing nothing.

I don’t know if any of that has anything to do with why I can’t seem to focus on getting anything done now. I’m eager to write. I have a number of stories I’m trying to push forward, but mostly I just keep pushing things back and forth, side to side. What am I doing? I don’t know.

The other day, while trying rather unsuccessfully to focus on a story, I ended up stumbling on a blog post by my advisor from my MFA days, the author Stephen Schwartz. The post is called “Feeding the Lake,” and it’s full of great advice for writers. But perhaps the one that struck me the most was this:

Realize that you’re writing even when you’re not. It’s called wool gathering. Lying on the couch daydreaming, mulling over a story in the shower, waiting to pick up your kids from school, spacing out in a staff meeting. Give yourself credit for all these.

Yes, give yourself credit. Be kind to yourself. It might be the doldrums, the dog days with evil influence from the Dog Star—but that doesn’t mean things aren’t stirring in the brain box, even if they aren’t making it successfully onto the page. (And if you’re not aware of where those words come from—dog days, doldrums—you should read up on it; I think it’s rather interesting.)

For my writing group this week, we’re having a barbecue. Or as Anya says about Thanksgiving on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “You kill and eat an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice. With pie.” For the token vegetarian of the group, there will be non-animal eating as well. A gathering with my writer friends never fails to inspire and energize me, so maybe in the wake of this gathering, I’ll be motivated to shake off the doldrums and spew forth worthy words. Of course, I seem to recall some of them saying recently that July had stifled their output as well . . . but we shall see.

In any case, to return to a theme, let’s just remember to give ourselves credit for what we do accomplish, no matter how nebulous, and to be good to ourselves! And while we’re at it, how about returning to this ancient track from summer days of my SoCal youth:

Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins

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4 thoughts on “The Dog Days Doldrums: Or, Be Good to Yourself Even When You’re Doing Nothing

  1. c2london

    I guess I’ll blame the wool gathering for the fact that I’ve gotten nowhere in life as far as a career is concerned. If I could pinpoint my current writing difficulties to the start of July, I might be relieved since August is right around the corner, or really just waiting ahead if you see time as linear.

    So that I can say I’ve accomplished something this week, I’d better get to my deferred blog post.

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    1. bkwins Post author

      If it’s just July that’s the problem, OK. But the dog days extend well into August, at least according to modern calendars. So there’s that. So, yeah, bear with it, and give yourself credit for the little wins.

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