By George Angus
For a lot of writers, the key to success is an environment conducive to their writing style. There are certainly some aspects of a writer’s environment that they can control and manipulate. It may take a while, but most of us figure out what works best for us and we add or delete the elements that we can.
I remember my first visions for a writing lifestyle. Me and my laptop, an oceanside cafe, seascape and sunshine inspiring my prose to new heights. Since I live in Alaska, that was one heckuva pipe dream. Reality set in and what I’ve found that works for me is probably the opposite of what you would think.
Alaska is a land of extremes. In my neck of the woods temperatures range from 20 or so degrees below zero to as much as 90 in the summer. I’m fond of telling folks that we have two seasons up here: Winter and the 4th of July. The most striking extreme comes in the form of daylight or lack thereof. It is one of the first questions I get when I’m talking to someone who lives out of state. “Is it really dark all day?” The answer to that question is, “No, not really.” It certainly is dark for longer than folks elsewhere are used to and in the summer it’s light enough to play midnight softball.
The extremes of living in Alaska certainly affect my writing. Personally, I find it much more difficult to get any decent writing done during the long days of summer. While the days of sunshine fill my soul with warmth and good feelings, they don’t do anything to inspire my writing. I think it might have to do with the nagging tug of an impending winter, but I’m loathe to stay indoors any longer than is necessary. If I stay inside, I feel like I’m guilty of wasting time. Outdoor time does not work for my writing. There are a lot of distractions and writing just doesn’t seem like an active enough activity to hold my interest.
It’s interesting to me that by the time winter rolls around, I’m usually ready for it. I don’t need an excuse to hole up inside. This is when the writer in me blossoms and I get into a creative mode. Thank goodness National Novel Writing Month is in November. If it was in June there would be no chance of me ever completing a novel.
It would be natural to assume that with the long, dark and cold days of winter, the blues would be a problem. Admittedly, for some folks it can be. Seasonal Affected Disorder is real for a lot of people and they need some full spectrum lights strategically placed around the house in order to avoid sinking into a deep depression. I’ve never had to suffer through that malady and I’m pretty thankful for that.
For me and my writing, winter is a chance to get even. When I awake and see that it’s 10 below, I secretly smile on the inside. Time to fire up the woodstove, brew a pot and have a seat at the computer. It’s all a matter of perspective I guess. A little part of my mind thinks that since it’s too cold to go out and do stuff, I may as well hang out and write. In the summer, that piece of my mind goes into hibernation and is replaced by the voice that tells me it’s a great day to go hiking or gold panning or fishing. And you know what? I don’t miss the writing too much and I don’t have a single shred of guilt over it. I know that when old man winter rolls around I’ll be ready to scribe my little heart out.
I think that as writers we tend to be too hard on ourselves. If we go for more than a day or two without writing we start to think we must be some kind of failure and have no business calling ourselves a writer. Bullocks, hogwash and poppycock, says I. The best thing you can do as a writer in it for the long haul is to examine what works for you and then let that guide your writing. What is good for me is not necessarily good for you. You are the only one who can determine what is good for you and your writing. Feel good about whatever works for you.
I’m curious about what other writers do in this regard. Are you a winter writer or a summer writer? Do long winter days inspire your writing or do they send you to bluesville?
George is a writer slugging out an existence in Palmer, Alaska. AKA Tumblemoose, George keeps a blog, writes for some clients and works on his novels and picture books when he can.