Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Ah, spring. It always seems to me that it is the most creative season. I don't know if that's true for writers, it's just a theory I've long held. I've never kept a calendar to see if my output is actually more prolific or my writing is more profound in the spring of the year but I choose to believe it is.
Spring represents awakenings and growth and birth, not only in fact, but in our souls. Every season has its beauties but spring is when we hunger for beauty most. The colorful hues of Daffodils and Tulips, Crocus and Hyacinths, seem more exhilarating after months of brown grass and gray skies. Seeing trees erupt into clouds of pastel color warms the heart. So does seeing rosebuds fatten under a spring sun.
We used to take rides in Spring just to see all the babies - gamboling lambs, awkward colts, curious calves who'd come over to the fence and snuff you with fat wet noses. Military-like lines of chicks or ducks following in Mama's footsteps. Signs would begin to appear on fence posts - "free puppies" or "free kittens". Not so many farmers keep free-running livestock anymore which I find sad.
Springs brings its own characteristic smells, delighting the nose. The entire kitchen is overtaken by the fragrance emanating from the bounteous vase of Lilacs on the table. The odor of grilling drifts across backyards. There is an earthy muskiness in the air that comes from spring rain and thawed earth and reborn plants. And nothing can beat the smell of a cast-iron skillet full of morel mushrooms, fried in butter.
And seasonal sounds - we begin to hear the joyful songs of birds before dawn celebrating the matings that will lead to a new generation. I associate the sound of spring with the throaty roar of motorcycles flying past my house as well as trucks with windows down, booming with base. Nah, it doesn't irritate me. I'm old now but I remember the blood-stirring of spring and the wish to advertise the glory of it. No different than the wild singing of geese and ducks heading for home or the haunting howls of coyotes. For most species, spring equals sex and babies, subconsciously if not consciously, and they extol it in different ways.
For Christians, of course, spring is the season of Easter - the ultimate act of being reborn for them. When I was young and we were still church-going Catholics, Easter meant new clothes - pastel dresses and straw hats and patent-leather shoes. Now it means (hopefully) getting Good Friday off work.
Spring means freedom from coats and gloves. It means a return to porch-sitting, cleaning out closets to cast away the old.
For writers, perhaps it means the birth of a new idea, a new manuscript, a new motivation. That's what spring does.
Monday, February 15, 2016
I am a person driven by deadlines. Maybe it is because I've been a columnist for so long. Columnists simply can't miss deadlines or they won't be a columnist for long. Even before that though I think my way was to ignore a task until the pressure was licking at the back of my neck.
I wait until April 15 to do my taxes even when I think I'll be getting a refund. I simply don't want to face such an ugly chore until I absolutely have to. I turned in homework on the last day it was due, because I probably hadn't finished it until the night before. I usually only balanced my checkbook over concern about an overdraft. I wait until my car reminds me that its time to change the oil. I postpone appointments until my doctors are practically threatening me before I accede to a physical check up, a teeth cleaning or an eye exam.
Because I'm such a terrible procrastinator, I need deadlines to keep me on the straight and narrow and to keep my goals from floating around aimlessly as dreams.
As a columnist, my deadlines are presented to me by whatever newspaper I'm writing for. I currently write a column for the Logansport Pharos-Tribune (approximately 650 words) every Sunday without fail. It has to be at the paper by Monday. Thank God, for the internet to send it to its destination within minutes unlike back in the day, when I depended on the postal service and delivery could vary by a day or two. The internet allows me to procrastinate a while longer.
I've learned to impose other deadlines on myself and to see them as inviolable. I try to update my three blogs every week (somewhere between 500 and 1000 words each) and I mostly stick to it. In the case of blogs, your readers are really your deadline determiners. If they expect to see a new post regularly and they don't, they'll stop dropping by. You have to keep them satisfied if you expect to maintain their loyalty.
With long fiction manuscripts, I have to make bargains with myself. "You cannot light another cigarette until you finish this page." Or, "you cannot get dressed and go to the store until you complete this chapter." My goal is usually to finish a novel in three months. I don't always exactly make it but I usually come close. I fell way behind when my son died and my inspiration seemed at first to die with him but I seem to be getting back on track now.
I think I manage my writing deadlines pretty well but the ones I set for myself regarding marketing are abysmally ineffective. I don't like marketing. In fact, I don't really like to think about books at all once they are published. The fun part is done and I want to move on to writing some new exciting thing - new characters, new locations, new plot lines.
So my poor books tend to wither on the vine of non-publicity. My dream for 2016 is to put more time and energy into marketing. So far, it remains a dream and not a goal.