Writing and the Winter Blues

Writing has been hard for the last few weeks. With the holidays looming and First Reader still recovering, I’ve had a hard time staying motivated. I’m not a big fan of winter, I’m a summer baby. I prefer long, warm days over long, cold nights.

Don’t get me wrong, I prefer living in a region with seasons. I love watching the shades of green bloom as the trees return to life in the spring. Every day is a new hue until the leaves mature, and summer arrives. Vegetation is at it’s most vibrant as spring turns to summer and the days are still mild and filled with moisture. As time moves along, the Dog Days of Summer nip our heels, sending us to local mountains, lakes, and rivers to cool off.

Time marches on, and the heat of summer yields to the cool, crisp days of autumn, a welcome break from the heat of weeks of frequent sizzling temperatures. Early autumn is beautiful to behold. The cooling soil and shorter days signal the trees to lose their foliage in preparation for the often brutal months to come. As deciduous plants prepare to shed their foliage for the winter, the leaves change. A vivid display of color emerges before the short days bring us back to the cold months with snow and ice.

(C) 2019 JJ Shaun

Winter has its own beauty, though. Watching a snow-covered peak as the sun rises raises questions of how many colors one can see reflecting off the snow-topped mountains. I’ve had the opportunity to gaze at the Front Range as the sun kisses the peaks with sunshine. Trying to describe all the colors my eye detects is an exercise in futility. Taking a picture of an actual sunrise is just as elusive as trying to capture the depth and breadth of the Grand Canyon in a snapshot—the image doesn’t do the scene any justice.

(C) 2009 JJ Shaun
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

One good thing about winter, for me at least, is that I experience the hardships that come along with the harsh season, and for a writer, that can be an advantage. The weather can act as a passive character in your story. When writing a scene, how often do you use the weather in moving the plot along? If you’ve ever worked outdoors in the winter you know how much the cold can sap your strength. The cold air can cause a coughing fit as it hits your lungs if you are asthmatic, like me. If the conditions are frigid enough, exposed skin and extremities are at risk of frostbite, a severe condition in which your nose, fingers, toes, or skin freeze and the underlying tissue dies.

Weather provides an opportunity to use the elements as a help or hindrance, or both, to your characters as the plot picks up pace. Winter is the perfect time to experience the hardships of a season to aid your tale. If your story is set in an area with heavy precipitation year-round, use the local climate as a foil to progress.

How do your characters respond to a sudden onslaught of wind and rain or snow? What dangers do stormy conditions throw in the path of story progress? Are your characters exposed when circumstances change? Do your characters have the know-how to build shelter and fire to stay dry and warm?

My first draft doesn’t usually take the weather into consideration, but sometimes, it’s an essential element in the tale. For example, Aeryn Mateyus and company battle through a goddess-caused tempest before finding refuge in the temple of the furious goddess. In this case, the weather was a factor in the party’s survival. The novel I’m writing also uses the weather as an obstacle, and as an advantage.

As the seasons change, pay attention to how you feel as well as what’s happening in nature, the two aspects of life go hand-in-hand. Weather changes affect our moods, our health, and our relationships with others, not just the world outside the four walls of our writing environs. If you’re a journal-keeper, which I’m not, you probably track some of those day-to-day feelings and weather-related events that affect our lives. The dark days of deep winter can cause seasonal depression in some people, another way in which climate affects us.

Even though this is the time of year I am typically my most productive with my word count, I’ve had my own battles this year with the seasonal blues. I am working my way through the issues. This autumn season has brought its share of challenges. Still, I am looking forward to a new year and the opportunities that are sure to open.

Finally, I would like to thank every one of my readers for a year of growth on this page. Without your continued support, I’m not sure I’d be as motivated as I have been in the last few weeks. Thank you all. Have a Happy Holiday season.

I’m looking ahead to another year of improvement and sharing what little knowledge and wisdom I have to offer.

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