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Seasons Of Writing

[1]I’ve never been one of those writers who writes every single day, rain or shine, all year ’round. It works perfectly for some. It doesn’t work for me. But I’m also not a writer who waits on inspiration. There are times (especially when I’m under deadline) that I’ll be writing, whether or not I feel like writing, to get the job done. Neither the clock nor the muse seems to be in control here. I wish that meant that I’m the one in control, but that doesn’t seem to be the case either.

So I’ve been thinking, lately, about the difference. Why do the words come easily some days, and others, can barely be forced into a trickle? Why do I throw myself into drafting new chapters when my research books pile not-yet-read on the nightstand, or pitching essays when the deadline for my next book looms?

I think it has something to do with seasons.

Not the ones outside. Not the weather or the calendar. But some indescribable confluence of what’s going on all around me and within me, changing as the days change.

I think when I’m writing new language, when I’m in a season of creation, all I want to do is create. Recently I finished an early draft of a novel and sent it off to my beta readers, which means it would probably be a good time to either focus on Q&As for a book of mine that’s coming out (under my pseudonym) in another country, or pitch essays online to keep my name and work on people’s minds. What did I do instead, the same day that I stopped polishing one book? I opened a new file and started writing the first chapter of the next book. (It’s been percolating for a while.)

If I’m researching, I want to keep researching; if I’m pitching, I want to keep pitching. As with the seasons of the year, I can always get out of a season if it’s necessary. You can, after all, going swimming in the winter if you really want to, right? If I have a good reason to do the type of writing that isn’t the type of writing I most want to do — or if I’m in a fallow season of not wanting to write at all but I have a deadline that’s pushing me — I can make it work. It’s just a little harder.

But all in all, I think there are moods that I move through — more complicated than “inspiration”, but more mystical than a formal Write Every Day process. I’m going to keep an eye on things the next few months to see if this bears out, and to see how I can best turn it to my advantage.

Does your writing fall into “seasons”? Or have you recognized other patterns in your own process?

About Jael McHenry [2]

Jael McHenry is the debut author of The Kitchen Daughter [3] (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books, April 12, 2011). Her work has appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Indiana Review, and the Graduate Review at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. You can read more about Jael and her book at jaelmchenry.com [4] or follow her on Twitter at @jaelmchenry.