As is often said, there’s a season for everything. I’ve been pondering this not simply because I feel and see the first whispers of autumn when I step outside in the morning, but because my writing life has shifted yet again. The ease and free time of summer is giving way to the busyness and change of fall—which means less time to write.
This perennial busyness isn’t new to me. Summer, it seems, is the only time I have the mental and schedule clarity to commit as much time as I’d like to my literary projects, and it’s been this way since I was a teenager. The familiarity doesn’t stop my frustration, though. Writing my stories is my passion and I balk at anything that encroaches upon it. I know many writers who feel the same way. But because I’ve dealt with these seasons before, I’m in a better position to thrive despite them.
Common writing advice says to make yourself write everyday. To a degree, I agree. The importance of discipline and focus cannot be understated—yet, even for someone like myself who likes a strict standard of achievement, there must be grace for the times when writing doesn’t happen. Schedules fill. Other skills need cultivated. Creativity dries up. Fatigue sets in. Rest becomes a necessity, not just physically but mentally, and writers must set aside their writing for a moment. But rest does not mean quitting. Learning how to rest without quitting is one of the more important things I’ve learned from the “dry” periods of my writing life.
Just because I cannot write the draft of my novel—whether because of time restraints or creative dullness—doesn’t mean I can’t continue to work on my novel. I can research. I can outline. I can sketch a character or make a character board. I can draw a map or family tree. I can dabble with a short story. I can try my hand at a poem. I can replenish my creativity by enjoying, rather than creating, other creative endeavors (artistic or not): reading a good book, watching a movie, listening to music, attending a play, visiting a new city, trying new food, talking with a friend, going for a walk. All of these things, while not strictly writing my current project, are contributing to my current project.
Speeds vary, but most of the time, writing is a slow and culminating process. For me, it’s especially slow. The first draft of my current novel took me four years to create, and the second draft will no doubt take four more. And the draft after that? Who knows. But the quiet seasons of creativity have taught me that it’s okay to take a while. Not because I have unlimited time, but rather, because I cannot rush the process, no more than a child can rush through childhood and into adulthood in a year. Some things just take time.
I will never maintain the high times forever; there will always be seasons when very little seems to be happening. Proverbial winters, if you will. The sooner I accept it, the sooner I can understand it, and the sooner I can glean from it. After all, the less time I spend grumbling about how I don’t have time to write, the more time I can find to prepare myself for when it’s time to write again.