Tag Archives: autumn

Writing Days

Summer is winding to a close. The hot days that press down on the prairie like a sizzling iron have eased to moderate temperatures, thanks to the hurricanes pounding the coasts. My brain is starting to wake up and revive from the stupor that three-digit temperatures always induce in me. (My roses feel the same way, perking up and putting on their fall flush of blooms.) Autumn in the prairie cauldron is a short-lived season, one to be seized with joy and gratitude because finally we feel revived and able to get a few things done.

Like write.

Yeah, I know that the sun is mellowing into the golden radiance that late September and October bring, the kind of light that lures me outdoors despite my best nose-to-the-grindstone intentions.

I know that it’s time to clean up the yard, clear off the patio, put away the lawn chairs, wash the windows, treat the grass, buy pumpkins and pansies, plant tulip bulbs, tarp the AC compressor and cast iron patio table, decorate for Halloween, contemplate how many Christmas trees I might put up in November, find my flannel shirts and–more importantly–my socks, and generally get ready for winter, but I need to write.

So many distractions swirling like the north wind that will soon have brown, red, and golden leaves skipping across the lawn–and yet, I need to write.

I am this close to writing the climax of my current work in progress. It was supposed to be one of two books completed this summer. Alas, that objective was not reached. My sights have lowered to the all-important task of getting this one manuscript finished. I can do it. I just have to ignore the beckoning autumn weather, park myself in my writing chair, and type those final scenes.

Back in the days when every summer was a race against the ticking clock of looming publisher deadlines, involving the writing of long, large-cast, complicated novels before my return to the university campus, I typed like a madwoman. The final days of rough drafting were crazy, nearly round-the-clock sessions of writing, eating, writing, crashing to sleep, and rising to write more. I refuse to count the number of years I spent on that particular work treadmill, and how I pushed myself to meet the challenge again and again.

This manuscript is not that complicated. There is no deadline, except the one I’ve set. I have savored the luxury of taking my time. It doesn’t mean I’m writing better. It doesn’t mean this light adventure has any depth. But I’m writing, and for this year–this summer–that is enough.

Here’s a quote from Louis L’Amour that I like: “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

We can let ourselves freeze up from doubt, anxiety, and uncertainty. We might be facing the kind of story we’ve never done before. We might feel we don’t know what we’re doing. We might feel we’re too rusty, too untrained, or insufficiently talented to write what is filling our heart and imagination. As creative people, we can invent a dozen reasons why we shouldn’t try.

But as L’Amour says, turn on the faucet. Sit at your keyboard and type. Make your protagonist talk to someone, even if it’s the nosy little girl next door that has nothing to do with your plot outline. Type anyway, until your story sense takes over and the real scene starts to flow. You can always cut out the little girl later. Or, you might decide to keep her.

Roll with it.

Write.

Enjoy the fall weather after your writing session for the day. Whatever your daily page quota happens to be, meet it, even if some pages are too weak or inane to keep. And during the days when buying pansies beckons, reduce your page quota–if your deadline will allow–so you don’t feel guilty and you don’t miss the fun.

And, for as long as you need to write, do it.

 

 

 

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Creative Gold

I always think of October as “the golden month,” probably because of the quality of sunlight. It changes to a mellow radiance that, combined with the wide blue skies of the prairie, makes me very happy. Some of you are lucky enough to live where the trees are turning color. Here, where we probably won’t have a frost for another month, when a tree turns yellow in October we have to wonder, is it turning … or dying from heat and drought?

I grew up in a southern state with bounteous rainfall. I had woods to play in as a child, and my favorite trees in autumn were hickories because they turned bright yellow and white oaks because their leaves turned scarlet. Then there were the little pops of orange from sassafras saplings–how I loved to snap off a twig and chew on the flavorful bark–and the bright red of sumac.
Tennessee river

fall landscape3

Around here, I get my fall tree fix from driving through some of the older neighborhoods where folks have planted non-indigenous trees and nourished/pampered them through sometimes brutal climate into stately monarchs of the boulevard. Instead of hickory trees, there are ginkos to provide bright yellow. Instead of white oaks, there are the massive, spreading shumard oaks that offer a dark, rich crimson. Good enough!

My biggest regret about October is that I miss so many days outdoors due to being locked inside at work. (And, no, my boss doesn’t incarcerate me. It just feels that way!) Still, there are evenings and weekends to savor as much of the glory as I can.

The cooler temps bring on the last big flush from the roses and raise my energy level. I can’t help but see my surroundings with fresh eyes.

Jefferson rose

front rose

The weather change also starts my creative juices flowing. My brain is teeming with book ideas–at least six on the burner right now, ready for me to choose one and start developing a plot from it.

I’m also fired up about landscaping. There’s the barren spot left behind by my beloved Linda Campbell rose bush. I want to plant spring bulbs, but it’s too early here. November is the best time for me to plant tulips since at present the ground is still too warm. (It’s always a gray day in late November, when the wind is howling at near-gale force, my nose is frozen, and I ask myself with every jab of my trowel what was I thinking to order an extra bag of daffodils.)

Still, while I wait for colder weather, I can’t resist doing something in the dirt. Yesterday I bought pansies and coneflowers. Anything at this point to take the space away from the milkweed and dock that persist in claiming Linda C’s spot.

pansies

Beyond my ideas for gardening and decorating the front porch–yes, I’m searching for a grand but cheap pumpkin–I’m thinking ahead to Christmas. It’s time to pull out the tubs containing all the stuff I bought last year at 90 percent off and create those garlands I saw in a magazine. Yesterday I found white wreaths at Michael’s, which means I don’t have to buy a green one and spray paint it white. Hurray! I want it to make a 4th of July wreath for next summer. As for Halloween, which is fast approaching, somewhere I’ve stashed a handful of craft paint bottles–their colors carefully chosen for painting a plaster skull in hues of mold and decay. Granted, I could have spent $5 and purchased a Styrofoam skull already looking grungy and creepy, but it’s not as much fun as painting one myself. If only I could find the paint! And where is that dratted skull? Probably tucked away in a box in the guest room.

skull craft

About three years ago, I stumbled upon a vast architectural table at a garage sale, managed to drag it home in a borrowed pickup, and installed it in my garage to use as a work table for sewing and creative projects. Of course, in my home any horizontal surface becomes piled with all sorts of objects–including stacks and heaps of books. At the moment, there isn’t even a corner of this table clear for use. But I need it, which means either holding a garage sale of my own or scrounging boxes and filling them up. Because, besides painting, scattering glitter, and sniping florist wire, I need to make curtain valances for several of my windows and this surface is large enough for cutting out fabric.

How many years have I now lived in this house, and the windows still aren’t dressed beyond utilitarian blinds?

If all of this sounds deranged, it’s only the way creative minds work. The process of making something is so appealing that it’s easy to forget a simpler, quicker solution is waiting in a store to be purchased, slapped in place, and done.

But what’s the fun in that?

However, by the time I tackle even a fourth of all these projects–realistically perhaps only an eighth of them–when will there be time to write?

Ah … but you see, these wonderful projects–from landscaping to sewing–are simply ways to allow my imagination free rein. It needs to play so that it will willingly serve up good ideas for the manuscript page. I know writers who make collages or dabble in mixed-media art for the same purpose. When creative juices are flowing elsewhere than the computer keyboard, the imagination blossoms. And then you can channel it productively once more toward plot ideas and lively characters.

Which means there’s a good chance that the plastic tubs holding my Christmas garland-making supplies will probably stay where they are for yet another year. But ssh! We won’t let my imagination know that yet.

roses morning glories

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