This morning is the first I’ve noticed where there’s a real tinge of autumn in the air. It’s cool and crisp, and spiderwebs are shining in the early light, and the sky is cloudless blue. The trees at the end of our garden are rich with leaves on the turn. It’s no wonder that this is my favourite time of year. I’m thinking towards the falling into winter, the gradual darkening and slowing down of life, and it’s making me grateful for the light and brightness that this summer still holds.
It’s also making me think towards the future. I’ve been asked to take part in a critiquing group, which is very exciting, and can only help to hone my own powers as a story-dissector; it will also be a huge chance for me to learn from others, people who are further down the road than I am. It’s a little scary to know I’m going to have to place my own work beneath their scrutiny, but that seems to be the name of the game for me, this past while: getting over, again, my fear of being read. It’s an old and primal fear, one which beset me awfully at the beginning of my attempts to be a writer and which took extreme willpower to overcome. I managed it then, and I hope I can manage it now, too.
Weather, and its changing, always has a profound effect on me and my mindset. The beginning of autumn is a reminder to slow down and go with the flow; nobody is bigger than the seasons. It’s a reminder of your place in the grand orchestra – play your own note, at the right time, and let the rest worry about itself.
That’s the ideal, at least.
I wrote almost 3000 words on Eldritch yesterday, and then realised I was starting to go down a wrong path. I deleted more than 800 of the words I’d written and stared at the screen for a while, hating the flashing cursor. It took me longer than you’d think to work out it was time to leave it to one side. There’s a great saying, often quoted to me by my parents: You can only do a day’s work in a day. Often, I forget this, and I want to write the entire book in a day, or I demand of myself that I reach the 5000 word mark every single time I sit down to write.
It takes such effort to overcome your natural tendencies to want to do everything now, and move on to the next thing before you even have a chance to think about what you’re doing. It takes such work to treat your creative life with care, and to realise it’s not on a switch. It has ebbs and flows. It has the heat of summer, when things flow freely, and it has the frozen heart of winter when even writing one word is too much. It has times like this, when you have to remember to be gentle with yourself, and with your words, or risk having the whole thing fall to pieces. It’s too easy, when you’re beset with the stresses (half of them imagined, no doubt) of dealing with editorial feedback and beginning a new phase in your engagement with other writers and thinking long-term towards your career goals and navigating all the complicated, simple things that we all have to live with, like paying bills and keeping house and managing not to put your clothes on back-to-front, to let it overwhelm you and to lose the ‘control’ you’ve convinced yourself you have. Much better to realise that things will take their own time, and all you’ve got to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.
One thing at a time. Everything in its proper sequence. Dance when the music plays, and don’t worry about the steps.
Do you find your moods and/or mindset are affected by the changing seasons? How does the approach of winter (if you’re a Northern Hemisphere-r!) make you feel? Any tips for remembering to slow down and take a step back when things start to get overwhelming?