My agent told me that in her experience, writers don’t tend to do much writing in the winter months, but are far more productive in the spring and summer. I found this really surprising. Surely it’s easier to hunker down when the weather outside is cold and uninviting? I’ve tried writing outside sprawled on a deckchair in the sun, laptop perched precariously on my knees, cool drink within arms reach… doesn’t work for me.
First of all it was really hard to see the screen, then the damn laptop got hot and I started to worry that I was going to melt it somehow and lose all my precious creations in a distorted blob of black plastic. On that occasion I ended up shifting the deckchair into the shade, which just made me feel resentful, and I ended up abandoning laptop and deckchair and sprawling out in the sun with a good book.
Now writing in Scotland in the winter is easy. Firstly you only have to blink and you’ve missed the daylight hours, so there is no temptation to venture outdoors and get distracted by fresh air, shops, whatever. Secondly, wrapping yourself in a blanket and hunching over a computer is somehow conducive to the muse. You can snack on choccy biscuits because you can tell yourself you need the extra fuel to keep warm.
As my agent is based in London, perhaps it’s an English thing – after all, the winters in England are far more depressing than those in the Highlands of Scotland. They’re just dull and damp and grey. None of the pale blue skies and crisp frosts when the air cleans out your nostrils for you. But the conversation did get me wondering whether everyone has their own optimum time to write. I think I do. I think planning and coming up with new ideas is a spring thing – it involves wandering around staring into space, and occasionally finding a scrap of paper to scribble on. I think I my brain starts lambing – creating new life. Then I like to write new stuff in the summer and autumn, moving from writing to planning the next bit and back to planning again, and finally editing is best in late autumn/ winter – when basically I need to get totally immobile and not venture outside. In fact if I could just stay in bed for 24 hours it would be totally ideal for editing.
If you can figure out your own seasonal patterns it would probably be a great help. You won’t berate yourself for a low word count if you know you are actually in your editing phase, and if you find it hard to sit still and edit, perhaps you’re in your new creations phase? Think about it.
Interesting Elaine Neil Orr has just posted her own views on seasonal writing http://booksbywomen.org/learning-to-fall-by-elaine-neil-orr/