Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seasonal Writing

I do enjoy the summer…I really do. But, although there's a lot to love about the outdoors this time of year—magnificent flowers, great walking weather, picnics and county fairs—I have to say it's my least favorite season. Growing up in New England, I simply never acclimatized to extended periods of heat and humidity. Once the thermometer hits 85-degrees, my brain turns to steam and stalls out like an overheated automobile engine. I just want to lie down and nap through the heat of the day.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, during the summer writing just seems more of a chore for me. Aside from the heat (you see we don't have central AC in our home) there are more distractions—friends visiting, our sailing club sponsors trips all over the Chesapeake Bay, my garden needs watering and weeding, the list goes on and on. The result is, I have to concentrate harder to write each paragraph, each page, each chapter—or at least that's the way it feels, hampered by my sweltering brain.

With the cooler days of autumn, I always feel invigorated. Suddenly there's more energy to apply to my writing. And winter…well, if it's snowing and cold outside, that's all the more reason for staying warm and cozy in the house, and playing with a character or exciting scene. With spring, there's a different kind of energy burst. I do most of my real gardening in the spring, so that eats up some time. But the physical activity in the still-cool days seems to encourage rather than discourage writing. Maybe that's because gardening is another form of creation, working with soil and seeds rather than words?

So summer, for me, is the hardest time to write. I really have to be stern with myself, sit myself down at my keyboard and put in the necessary hours. However, if the work is less of a pleasure then, I've found a way to compensate myself for the effort. I use summers for experimenting with fresh story ideas. I've just finished work on three plot concepts for new novels, sent them off to my agent, who has forwarded them on to my editor in New York. I'm letting her choose the one she feels will be the strongest as a follow-up to my just finished novel, The Gentleman Poet (Fall/2010). In this way my summers have become a time for experimentation, letting my mind run loose and free on sweltering afternoons, not expecting too much of it—sort of like when we were kids and released from school for summer vacation. In the fall, I'll throw myself into the initial draft of a new book, use the winter for continuing the writing process, in the spring revise and polish and, hopefully, have a finished book to hand my publisher by the time summer's heat again grips us.

I'm not sure this way of planning the writing of a book by the seasons makes sense to my family or other writers, but it works for me. I wonder if all writers have more or less productive periods that follow seasonal, lunar, or other types of patterns.

Think about your own writing. Do your best or least productive writing times seem to depend upon the weather, on stress levels or the time of year? How can you take advantage of these patterns to make the most of your writing time?

Man, it's hot today! Must be time for an ice cream break. – Happy writing, Kathryn

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