Seasonal Affective Writing Disorder

IMG_2155Let’s face it. Stuff around us matters. That’s the reason so many writers have such elaborate rituals. What we can hear matters. How cold it is matters. That giant oak tree outside the window matters. Whether we’ve have a cup of coffee. What our husband said to us last night. Not that all stars have to be aligned to write. Au contraire: they never will be. But what is going on around and in us (physically and otherwise) affects what we write. (Oh gracious. Here I go trying to figure out the difference between effect and affect.)

So let’s take a moment on this finally fall morning to reflect on how seasons may be changing how and what we write.

IMG_2196First off, it’s the weather, right? Now, not everyone enjoys the same weather, but generally if you take a Michigander and yank them out of a snow drift in February and stick ’em on a cruise ship, you have one happy camper. Moods change with the weather, and not just happy/sad. The differences can be more subtle. Perhaps rainy days make you more introspective, or sunny days more peaceful. Whatever a windy day does to you, it’s liable to splash out onto the page as much as it splashes out into your relationships or choices or habits. Are you more likely to accidentally pull over into the Starbuck’s drive through on a chilly, drizzly day? Is your current novel heroine going to find a ray of hope in her dire circumstances when the tulips have taken advantage of a perfumed spring day to suddenly emerge from the edges of your walkway? Yes and yes.

IMG_5561And then it’s the comfort level. Are you achy in the winter? Sneezy in the spring? Do you get too hot too easy? Or sunburned? Or love the feel of heat on your skin? Yeah, that’s going to matter, too. I get so ridiculously tired in the spring–even on medication–from my allergies that I can barely function. You think that might have some effect on my writing? And on how much writing I do? And how fast? You betcha.

But what I really want to talk about is the seasons. I’m a fairly sensitive–let’s use the word intuitive–person. So maybe I overreact to the seasons, but I think perhaps I am in a good position to point out to everyone else just how much biorhythms matter. Just ask my husband after a few night shifts. On second thought, don’t ask him then. Ask him after he’s had a few days to “readjust.” Do you want more ice cream in the summer? Pot pies and roasts in the winter? Do you nest in the fall? Hunker down after Christmas? We may not all have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but the seasons affect all of us. And, guess what, they are affecting what you write and your ability to write.

IMG_2230Huh. Interesting. So, what’s my point?

It might help to be aware of it. You can’t use a tool you don’t understand. You can’t avoid a pitfall you don’t see. It might be helpful for you to take stock, now, as we move from the bright, adventurous, warm, light summer to the cool, changing, fragrant, changable, cozy fall. Here are some questions for you.

    How does fall make me feel? Emotionally? Physically?
    Do I like the fall? Why or why not?
    Am I likely to produce more or less in the fall? Why?
    What projects are more appealing to me in the fall? Which ones might I avoid?
    What do I think my writing will do in the fall? How will my mood and circumstances affect my plots, characters, and tone?

IMG_5495And in a broader sense, our lives have seasons. They have one big swoop from “spring” (birth) through to “winter” (death), and they have many more subtler iterations, which we often refer to topographically, like a “dessert,” a “valley,” or a “mountaintop.” Where are you? And what are you writing?

4 thoughts on “Seasonal Affective Writing Disorder

    • Great thought. I’ve always imagined at least one of my characters would have SAD, but seasons should really affect all of them, right? In a way, I think good writers intuit this, like when weather sets the tone. But a little conscious effort would be good, too.

  1. My son is a serial (comic book) artist. He points out that color in a square reflects the mood which also reflects the action. He won’t be napping if the color is all orange or red! So the characters in a novel respond likewise to moods from seasons in the year and their lives. That’s being real. Admittedly, comics are a bit different. Wolverine is probably going to go slashing no matter what…warm spring – arctic winter! Thanks for your post!

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